Food manufacturing giant ConAgra is facing a flood of products liability lawsuits stemming from the company’s February 2007 recall of Peter Pan and Great Value peanut butter products due to salmonella contamination. Dozens of lawsuits in jurisdictions nationwide allege that the presence of salmonella in the products in question represented a product defect. The litigation includes 17 federal actions recently consolidated by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation for coordinated pre-trial proceedings under In re: ConAgra Peanut Butter Products Liability Litigation, No. 1:07-MD-1845, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia before Judge Thomas W. Thrash. In addition, several other federal actions pending throughout the U.S. may soon be consolidated.
The recall followed a consumer alert from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration linking reports of salmonella poisoning to peanut butter produced at ConAgra’s Sylvester, Georgia plant. Among the products recalled were peanut butter products manufactured as early as May 2006. According to reports from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least 628 individuals in 47 states have been sickened with salmonella after consuming ConAgra-produced peanut butter. Of those, approximately 125 were hospitalized, although no deaths have been reported.