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Sara Lee Corp. pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of producing and distributing adulterated meat relating to a 1998 hot dog and deli meat recall that was linked to more than a dozen deaths.
As part of a plea agreement with federal prosecutors, the company was fined $200,000 and agreed to a $1.2 million civil settlement with the government. Sara Lee also agreed to pay $3 million to fund food safety research at Michigan State University, Reuters reported.
In 1999, Sara Lee took a $76 million charge related to the recall of 35 million pounds of hot dogs and deli meats at its Bil Mar Foods unit after the food was linked to an outbreak of listeria, a food-borne illness that can be deadly for the elderly and people with weakened immune systems.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention linked the outbreak to 15 deaths, six miscarriages and more than 100 illnesses in 22 states. The meats and hot dogs were made at the Bil Mar plant in Zeeland, Mich.