CONSUMER SAFETYConAgra Says Salmonella FoundConAgra Foods said a state-run testing lab in Iowa confirmed the presence of salmonella in recalled peanut butter. "We will work with consumers to resolve any claims," company spokesman Chris Kircher said. "We are truly sorry for any harm our peanut butter products may have caused." An outbreak of food poisoning from the bacteria has sickened at least 329 people in 41 states, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. No deaths have been reported. The Food and Drug Administration told consumers Feb. 14 not to eat Peter Pan brand peanut butter purchased since May 2006. The agency also warned about Great Value peanut butter with a code on the lid beginning with the numbers 2111.
Separately, a family filed a negligence and wrongful-death lawsuit against ConAgra, claiming a relative died from eating salmonella-tainted peanut butter. At least four other lawsuits claim that negligence by the company led to the salmonella illnesses.
New Food-Safety System to LaunchStepped-up inspections at some meat and poultry plants are set to begin in April, according to Richard Raymond, the Agriculture Department's undersecretary for food safety. The new policy, the first overhaul of food safety inspections in a decade, is designed to increase scrutiny of processing plants where the threat of E. coli and other germs is high or where past visits have found unsafe practices. Plants with fewer risks and better food-handling records will be inspected less often.
The Agriculture Department proposes switching to the new system at about 250 locations, or about 5 percent of the nation's estimated 5,300 processing plants. As many as 1,200 plants might be part of the new system by Jan. 1.
TECHNOLOGYGoogle Enters Office MarketGoogle began selling e-mail, calendar and Web services to businesses. Google Apps Premier Edition costs $50 per user per year and includes word processing and spreadsheet applications. There is a free version supported by advertising. Customers paying for Google's service will get more storage for e-mail, telephone support and guarantees on reliability. Procter & Gamble and General Electric are testing the product with small numbers of users, said Dave Girouard, general manager of Google's enterprise unit. The software is part of an effort Google to win over users of Microsoft's Office program.
LEGALComair Accuses FAA of NegligenceComair sued the Federal Aviation Administration, saying the agency was negligent by having only one air traffic controller on duty Aug. 27 when a plane took off from the wrong runway in Lexington, Ky., and crashed. The accident killed 49 people. Comair claims that two controllers should have been working. The controller on duty that morning turned away to do some administrative tasks before Comair Flight 5191 took off.
Ex-Finance Chief Gets ProbationFormer HealthSouth finance chief Malcolm "Tadd" McVay avoided prison and was granted five years' probation. The government, which asked for a 28-month term compared with the nine years he could have faced, objected to U.S. District Judge Inge Johnson's decision in Birmingham, Ala. Last year an appeals court threw out the same sentence as too lenient.
Johnson said McVay, 45, played a relatively small role in the $2.7 billion accounting fraud at the company.
REGULATORSGamco Reaches Deal With SECGamco Investors, the money manager run by Mario Gabelli, reached a tentative settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission to resolve a dispute over trading in mutual fund shares. Under the settlement, Gamco will add $3 million to its 2006 legal and regulatory reserves, the company said.
Gamco received subpoenas from the SEC and the New York attorney general's office in 2004 in connection with improper trading of mutual funds.
Toll Brotherssaid first-quarter profit dropped 67 percent, to $54.3 million from $163.9 million in the comparable period a year earlier. Revenue slipped 19 percent, to $1.09 billion. Profit was hurt by $96.9 million in costs to write down the value of land and housing stock the company no longer believes it can sell at a profit.
Safewaysaid its fourth-quarter profit surged 77 percent, to $307.9 million, capping the grocer's best performance in five years. The company has cut costs and made over some of its stores. Sales rose 4 percent, to $12.5 billion.
For all of 2006, profit rose 55 percent, to $870.6 million. Sales increased 5 percent, to $40.19 billion.