ConAgra Faces Tough Sell When Peter Pan Returns after Recall

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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - When Peter Pan peanut butter returns to stores in July, some consumers' first thoughts will undoubtedly be about this year's salmonella outbreak and total recall of the brand.

The company that makes Peter Pan, ConAgra Foods, will have to find ways to convince consumers that its peanut butter is safe.

The Omaha-based food company won't discuss the details of its Peter Pan marketing plan for competitive reasons, but ConAgra is eager to win back consumers after the outbreak that sickened more than 400 people and spawned numerous lawsuits.

Marketing experts say ConAgra would do well to study the examples of companies that successfully dealt with past recalls by being forthright, like the makers of Tylenol did in the 1980s.

But ultimately, ConAgra simply needs to reassure consumers and deliver a safe product.

ConAgra officials have revealed what they think caused the problems at their plant in Sylvester, Georgia.

They believe moisture in the company's peanut butter plant likely helped salmonella bacteria to grow and later infect the finished product.

The moisture came from a roof leak and a faulty sprinkler head that triggered the plant's fire sprinklers twice, and the salmonella likely came from the raw peanuts. But they can't be entirely sure what caused the problems.

So ConAgra plans to do more than just eliminate the source of the moisture. The company said it would renovate the Georgia plant to make sure there is greater separation between raw peanuts and the finished product.

While those repairs are being made, ConAgra has arranged for another company to make Peter Pan, but it refuses to name the other company.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)