Cadbury fined $2 million over unsafe chocolate

/ Source: The Associated Press

A court fined Cadbury Schweppes PLC $2 million on Monday for salmonella contamination of its chocolate.

Cadbury, which pleaded guilty to violating food and hygiene regulations, was also ordered to pay 152,000 pounds ($309,000) in legal costs.

The company recalled a number of its chocolate products last year after the contamination was discovered at a cost of at least 30 million pounds ($60 million).

Recorder James Guthrie, presiding in Birmingham Crown Court, fined the company 500,000 pounds for putting unsafe chocolate on sale, 100,000 pounds each on two other charges brought by Birmingham City Council, and 50,000 pounds for each of six offenses at its factory in Marlbrook in the county of Herefordshire.

"I regard this as a serious case of negligence," the judge said.

"It therefore needs to be marked as such to emphasize the responsibility and care which the law requires of a company in Cadbury's position."

Sallie Booth, a lawyer representing 12 people affected by the contamination, said they were relieved by the fine.

"The 1 million pound fine sends a clear message that companies who have a great deal of responsibility for protecting public health cannot afford to ignore a potentially dangerous situation and cannot take a risk with the public's health," Booth said.

Analysts have speculated that Hershey Co., America's largest candymaker, wants to buy some or all of Cadbury's chocolate and gum lines.

Cadbury shares fell 0.2 percent to 654.5 pence ($13.31) on the London Stock Exchange.