OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — ConAgra Foods Inc. recalled all its Banquet pot pies and store brand varieties Thursday after the products were linked to a nationwide salmonella outbreak.
The company included beef pot pies in the recall after initially saying only the chicken and turkey pot pies should not be eaten.
ConAgra issued a consumer alert Tuesday and asked stores nationwide to stop selling the poultry pot pies, but the company stopped short of a recall until Thursday evening.
ConAgra spokeswoman Stephanie Childs said the decision to recall the pies wasn't based on new information, but an abundance of caution.
''We want to make sure there's no confusion with consumers, that these pot pies shouldn't be eaten,'' Childs said.
She said she knew of no indication of a link between cases of salmonella and the beef pot pies, but the company wanted to be careful as it collects information.
The pot pies made by ConAgra have been linked to at least 165 cases of salmonella in 31 states, including Wisconsin. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said at least 30 people have been hospitalized as part of the ongoing outbreak, but so far no deaths have been linked to the pot pies.
The company and federal officials warned customers not to eat the pot pies and to throw them away, and ConAgra is offering refunds. The store brand versions are sold under the names of Albertson's, Hill Country Fare, Food Lion, Great Value (sold at Wal-Mart stores), Kirkwood, Kroger, Meijer and Western Family.
Childs said she could not say how many pot pies are affected by the recall or how many ConAgra produces.
ConAgra officials have said some of the illnesses may be linked to undercooked pot pies, but Childs said the pot pies should not be eaten even if consumers think they have cooked them correctly. The company is revising the cooking directions on its pot pie packages to clarify how long the pies should be cooked in different microwaves.
Amanda Eamich, a spokeswoman for the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service, said three investigators are at the ConAgra plant looking for problems with a specific product or production date. ConAgra's recall is voluntary, and Eamich said without a specific connection, a recall wouldn't be ordered.
ConAgra shut down the pot pie production line at its Marshall, Mo., plant, but the rest of the plant, which employs about 650 people, has continued operating, Childs said Wednesday.
Salmonella sickens about 40,000 people a year in the U.S. and kills about 600. Most of the deaths are among people with weaker immune systems such as the elderly or very young.
Salmonella poisoning can cause diarrhea, fever, dehydration, abdominal pain and vomiting. Most cases are caused by undercooked eggs and chicken.
A Minnesota couple sued ConAgra Foods Inc. Thursday for selling the pot pies they believe made their young daughter ill with salmonella. The federal suit, filed in U.S. District Court in St. Paul, seeks damages of more than $75,000 and reimbursement for medical costs.
Consumers who want a refund for their pot pie should send the side panel of the package that contains the UPC code to the following address: ConAgra Foods, Dept. BQPP, P.O. Box 3768, Omaha, NE 68103-0768.
Consumers with questions can call the company toll free at 866-484-8671.
AP Business Writer Josh Funk contributed to this report.