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Odwalla to pay $1.5 million fine for tainted juice that killed baby

SHARE Odwalla to pay $1.5 million fine for tainted juice that killed baby

Juice maker Odwalla Inc. has pleaded guilty to federal charges and agreed to pay a $1.5 million fine for an E. coli outbreak blamed on bad apple juice that killed a baby and made 66 others ill two years ago.

It is the first criminal conviction in a large-scale outbreak caused by contaminated food, federal officials said Thursday. It is also the largest criminal fine in a food injury case in Food and Drug Admin-istration history.The outbreak was blamed on contaminated unpasteurized apple juice made at an Odwalla plant in Dinuba, near Fresno.

The juice was blamed for the death of 16-month-old Anna Gimmestad of Denver as well as illnesses in California, Washington, Colorado and Canada. Fourteen children developed life-threatening kidney ailments.

Odwalla, based in Half Moon Bay, pleaded guilty to 16 misdemeanor charges of selling adulterated food products and will serve five years' probation.

An investigation failed to pinpoint the source of the bacteria, which is spread through fecal contamination. Likely sources include unsanitary orchard workers or employees, or even apples that had fallen on the ground, FDA officials said.