Food and ingredient manufacturing company Kerry Inc. pleaded guilty today to a charge that it manufactured breakfast cereal under insanitary conditions at a facility in Gridley, Illinois, that was linked to a 2018 salmonellosis outbreak.
Pursuant to a plea agreement filed with a criminal information in federal court in Peoria, Illinois, Kerry pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of distributing adulterated cereal marketed as Kellogg’s Honey Smacks. The company also agreed to pay a criminal fine and forfeiture amount totaling $19.228 million. If the guilty plea is accepted by the court, the $19.228 million fine and forfeiture will constitute the largest-ever criminal penalty following a criminal conviction in a food safety case.
“Consumers depend on food manufacturers to take appropriate steps to ensure food safety,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “The Department is committed to holding accountable those who fail to meet this obligation.”
“Today’s announcement should serve as a reminder that food manufacturers have a critical responsibility to produce and sell food that is safe for American consumers to eat,” said Assistant Commissioner Justin D. Green for the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Office of Criminal Investigations. “We will continue to pursue and bring to justice those who put the public health at risk by allowing contaminated foods to enter the U.S. marketplace.”
The criminal information unsealed today alleges that Kerry manufactured Kellogg’s Honey Smacks cereal under insanitary conditions and distributed it in violation of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. According to the plea agreement, tests performed as part of Kerry’s environmental monitoring program found numerous instances of Salmonella in the environment at the Gridley facility. During the time period June 2016 to June 2018, routine environmental tests detected Salmonella in the plant approximately 81 times, including at least one positive Salmonella sample each month. According to the plea agreement, employees at the Gridley facility routinely failed to implement corrective and preventative actions (CAPAs) to address positive Salmonella tests.