ConAgra pleads guilty to shipping tainted peanut butter

FILE - In this Feb. 16, 2007, file photo, returned jars of Peter Pan Peanut Butter are shown at a super market in Atlanta. ConAgra Foods is likely to face a criminal charge now that the U.S. government has completed its investigation of the company's 2007 peanut butter recall. ConAgra recalled all its peanut butter in 2007 after its Peter Pan and Great Value peanut butter was linked to a salmonella outbreak that sickened at least 625 people in 47 states. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)

ALBANY, Ga. (AP) — After a decade-long criminal investigation into a nationwide salmonella outbreak linked to Peter Pan peanut butter, a ConAgra executive has pleaded guilty on behalf of the company to a single misdemeanor charge of shipping adulterated food.

The guilty plea settles a criminal investigation into the source of the salmonella blamed for sickening at least 625 people in 47 states. Federal and state disease detectives traced it to a plant in rural Sylvester, Georgia, that produced Peter Pan peanut butter. A massive recall followed.

No individuals at the $16.9 billion conglomerate based in Chicago faced any charges. Leo Knowles, president of ConAgra Grocery Products Company, entered the misdemeanor plea on behalf of the company Tuesday before a federal judge in Georgia.

Judge W. Louis Sands was to decide later Tuesday whether to accept a settlement ConAgra reached with federal prosecutors. That deal calls for ConAgra to pay $11.2 million, including an $8 million fine that the Justice Department says would be the largest criminal fine over food safety in the United States.