Cadbury pleads guilty to contamination charges

by Eric Schroeder
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LONDON — Cadbury Schweppes P.L.C. on Friday pleaded guilty to three food and hygiene offenses in connection with a Salmonella contamination that led to the recall of more than a million chocolate bars and left at least 30 people ill.

Cadbury is expected to incur a heavy fine in connection with the charges, which were brought by the Birmingham City Council. The fine will be decided at a separate hearing scheduled for July 13 at Birmingham Crown Court.

The charges stem from an outbreak of Salmonella at Cadbury’s Marlbrook factory in Herefordshire, that was first detected on Jan. 19, 2006. Cadbury later admitted that it failed to report the incident, blamed on a leaking pipe, because it believed there was no risk to human health.

"Mistakenly, we did not believe that there was a threat to health and thus any requirement to report the incident to the authorities — we accept that this approach was incorrect," Cadbury said. "Quality has always been at the heart of our business, but the process we followed in the U.K. in this instance was unacceptable. We have apologized for this and do so again today. Since last year more than £20 million has been spent in the U.K. on new and rigorous quality control procedures.

"The processes that led to this failure ceased from June last year and will never be reinstated."

Cadbury said it regretted the incident and is focused on "ensuring that this can never happen again."

"A major review has taken place of our quality, health and safety procedures globally to learn lessons and ensure that our consumers can rely on the highest levels of processes and standards wherever we operate," Cadbury said.

Cadbury, which said it has sustained charges of approximately £30 million in connection with the recall, also faces potential private litigation claims.

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