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Safety flaws at pot pie plant linked to outbreak

/ Source: The Associated Press

USDA inspectors found flaws in the safety plan ConAgra Foods Inc. used at the Missouri plant where it makes the Banquet and private label pot pies that were linked to a salmonella outbreak.

Those pot pies were recalled last month after hundreds of people who ate them became ill.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service said Thursday that ConAgra took action to correct the problems inspectors found after the Oct. 11 recall, so the government did not have a problem with the company’s plan to resume production.

USDA spokeswoman Amanda Eamich said details of the inspectors’ findings at the plant would be released only through a formal Freedom Of Information Act request.

Eamich would say only that there was a record-keeping problem and an issue with ConAgra’s Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point plan that spells out what the company does to ensure its products are safe.

ConAgra announced Wednesday that it had resumed making pot pies at the Marshall, Mo., plant, and the company expects the pies to return to stores sometime in January.

Unidentified source

ConAgra said the company has not identified the source of the salmonella in the pot pies, but has implemented new testing procedures at the plant and at its ingredient suppliers that should ensure the safety of the pot pies.

The pot pies made by ConAgra have been linked to at least 272 cases of salmonella in 35 states. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said at least 65 people were hospitalized as part of the outbreak, but no deaths have been linked to the pot pies.

Salmonella poisoning can cause diarrhea, fever, dehydration, abdominal pain and vomiting. Most cases are caused by undercooked eggs and chicken.

About 40,000 cases are reported each year in the U.S., but the CDC estimates that the actual number of infections may be 30 times higher because many milder cases are not diagnosed or reported. Most of the 600 deaths salmonella causes each year are among people with weaker immune systems such as the elderly or very young.