American food and ingredient manufacturing company Kerry Inc. has pleaded guilty to a charge that it manufactured breakfast cereal under insanitary conditions at its facility in Illinois, which was linked to a 2018 salmonellosis outbreak.

Kerry pleaded guilty to a misdemeanour count of distributing adulterated cereal marketed as Kellogg’s Honey Smacks. The company also agreed to pay a criminal fine and forfeiture amount totalling $19.228 million.

The $19.228 million fine and forfeiture will constitute the largest-ever criminal penalty following a criminal conviction in a food safety case in the US.

There were 130 cases of salmonellosis linked to the outbreak, with illness onset dates beginning in March 2018. No deaths related to the outbreak were reported.

Dairysafe CEO Geoff Raven said this case illustrates the importance of maintaining strong food safety systems. “A breakdown in systems or knowledge that leads to contamination of food products is bad for consumers, and bad for business,” Geoff said.

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