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Odwalla Seeking to Settle Charges

April 16, 1998|Reuters

Odwalla Inc. is "actively" seeking to settle likely federal criminal charges stemming from a 1996 outbreak of food poisoning traced to the company's apple juice, a company official said. Odwalla spokesman Chris Gallagher declined to comment on a report that the company would plead guilty to misdemeanor food-safety violations and pay a $1.5-million fine to settle charges stemming from the outbreak of E. coli bacterial poisoning that killed a 16-month-old girl and sickened more than 50 people. "Certainly we and most of all the families involved are interested in bringing closure to what has been a long and painful process," Gallagher said. "Clearly we regard the possibility of a settlement to be extremely positive." The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, citing unidentified sources, said the plea agreement likely would be filed within several weeks in California, where a federal grand jury has been investigating the outbreak across the western U.S. and Canada. The company, based in Half Moon Bay, was forced to recall many of its juice products after the outbreak and began pasteurizing apple juice-based drinks to kill any possible harmful bacteria. Gallagher noted that Odwalla consistently has taken responsibility for the problems that led to the outbreak of illness. Odwalla shares closed unchanged at $9.75 on Nasdaq.

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