The ConAgra plant that produces the company’s Banquet pot pies was closed yesterday among concerns of Salmonella contamination in Banquet chicken pot pies that had been manufactured in the plant.  The Associated Press reported on the closure today:

ConAgra Foods Inc. voluntarily stopped production Tuesday at the Missouri plant that makes its Banquet pot pies after health officials said the pies may be linked to 139 cases of salmonella in 30 states.

ConAgra officials believe the company’s pies are safe if they’re cooked properly, but the Omaha-based company told consumers Tuesday not to eat its pot pies until the government and company investigations are complete.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture also issued a health alert Tuesday afternoon to warn consumers about the link between the company’s product and the salmonella cases.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been tracking reports of the salmonella cases since Wednesday. A CDC spokeswoman said the largest numbers of salmonella cases had been reported in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Missouri. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a statement about the pot pie Salmonella outbreak, encouraging consumers to avoid any ConAgra-brand pot pies with a code of P-9, since they were produced in the same facility as the Banquet pot pies.

Pot Pie SalmonellaAt this time, CDC recommends that people do not eat any Banquet pot pies or pot pies made by ConAgra Foods that have a printed code ending in “P9.” Other brands of pot pies made in the ConAgra Foods factory that makes Banquet brand pot pies and sold under other brand names may also be contaminated with Salmonella. These other pot pie boxes also have a printed code ending in “P9”. If you have any of these products at home, the safest thing to do is to discard them.

This information conflicts with what ConAgra has been telling the public, maintaining that if the pot pies are cooked properly they will be safe for human consumption.  The AP article stated included a few sentences on ConAgra’s take on the outbreak:

[ConAgra spokeswoman Stephanie] Childs said ConAgra is confident in the safety of its chicken and turkey pot pies when all the cooking instructions on the package are followed. It is especially important to follow the directions when the pies are cooked in a microwave."

And on the International Food Safety Network’s Barf Blog, Dr. Doug Powell wrote his family’s experience with purchasing ConAgra-brand Banquet chicken pot pies and their attempt to get proper cooking information from ConAgra:

So Amy and I went to the local supermarket after dinner. We found the products in question, with the P-9 on the side, and on sale, 2-for-$1.

I called the number suggested by ConAgra (see above). After listening to a recorded message, I spoke with a human, who wanted to know my name, zip code, state, and when she got to address, I said, I just want to know how to properly cook these in the microwave, cause the press release says they’re safe if cooked properly.

The human hung up.

Amy and I then examined the ingredient list, which included cooked chicken, and mechanically deboned chicken — but did not specify whether the meat was coked or not. So maybe there is raw poultry in the pot pies, which could be a source of salmonella, or maybe it’s all cooked but there was a failure in reaching 165F. Don’t know at this point.

With the CDC reporting at least 139 cases of Salmonella epidemiologically linked to the ConAgra outbreak in 30 states – and that number growing – more information certainly will be available for Dr. Powell and others concerned about food safety very soon.