Kerry Inc. Pleads Guilty to Unsanitary Manufacturing Charges for Honey Smacks Cereal Linked to 2018 Salmonellosis Outbreak
On June 14, 2018, the Kellogg Company voluntarily recalled impacted packages of Honey Smacks cereal following an announcement by the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of a multistate outbreak of salmonellosis that could be traced to Kellogg’s Honey Smacks cereal produced at Kerry Inc’s Gridley, Illinois facility. According to the CDC outbreak summary, 135 people, in 36 states, were infected with Salmonella Mbandaka and 34 of these people were hospitalized. No deaths were reported.
In a February 3, 2023 press release, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), announced that Kerry Inc. pled guilty to a misdemeanor count of distributing adulterated cereal marketed as Kellogg’s Honey Smacks. According to the plea agreement, Kerry’s routine environmental testing detected Salmonella in its Gridley facility on approximately 81 times between June 2016 to June 2018 and employees at the Gridley facility routinely failed to implement corrective and preventative actions (CAPAs) to address positive Salmonella tests. Per the plea agreement, Kerry has agreed to pay a criminal fine and forfeiture amount totaling $19.228 million. If the guilty plea is accepted by the court, Kerry’s fine and forfeiture will overtake the penalty of $17.25 million from the Bluebell ice cream listeriosis settlement, discussed here, as the largest-ever criminal penalty following a criminal conviction in a food safety case.
In a related federal action, as we previously reported, Kerry’s former Director of Quality Assurance, Ravi K. Chermala, pleaded guilty on October 21, 2022 to three misdemeanor counts of causing the introduction of adulterated food into interstate commerce. Chermala admitted that he directed subordinates to not report certain information to Kellogg about conditions at the Gridley facility and to alter the plant’s program for monitoring for the presence of pathogens in the plant, limiting the facility’s ability to accurately detect insanitary conditions. Sentencing dates for Chermala and Kerry Inc. are set for February 16, 2023 and March 14, 2023, respectively.