At a congressional hearing held on Tuesday to discuss food safety issues within the United States, Gary Rodkin, ConAgra Foods chief executive officer, reported the company is hiring 250 quality personnel to support enhanced food-safety standards at its facilities.

The House Committee's on Energy and Commerce subcommittee held the broad-based hearings to determine what food-safety measures need to be enhanced, expanded or created. Rodkin's testimony addressed ConAgra pot pie and peanut butter recalls that occurred last year. The pot pie recall involved more than 200 cases of Salmonellosis, likely linked to undercooked chicken pot pies.

"By the end of this year, we will have reassessed every HACCP plan across all of our platforms," Rodkin said. He added that company has created a new Microwave Center of Expertise and is reviewing cooking instructions across all products. Among ConAgra's other initiatives:

  • Revising HACCP plans to recognize Salmonella as a potential hazard and require certificates from suppliers demonstrating all ingredients are Salmonella-free
  • Instituting independent laboratory testing on finished product testing for Salmonella
  • Making several process and equipment changes -- especially at the Marshall, Mo., plant
  • Changing on-pack cooking instructions to account for microwave cooking variability; and adding microwave cooking guidance to its Web site
  • Increasing food-safety training for plant personnel and suppliers
  • Increasing safe microwave cooking training for employees who field calls from consumers
  • Engaging the National Center for Food Safety Technology and the Illinois Institute of Technology to undertake research on the use of microwaves to cook frozen foods