ConAgra Foods voluntarily stopped production Tuesday at the Missouri plant that makes its Banquet pot pies after health officials said the...

OMAHA, Neb. — ConAgra Foods voluntarily stopped production Tuesday at the Missouri plant that makes its Banquet pot pies after health officials said the pies may be linked to 139 cases of salmonella in 30 states, including Washington.

The Omaha-based company told consumers Tuesday not to eat its chicken or turkey pot pies until investigations are complete.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a health alert Tuesday to warn about the possible link between the pot pies and the salmonella cases.

The USDA is advising consumers to discard the pies, said Amanda Eamich, of the agency’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. ConAgra is not recalling the pies but is offering mail-in refunds and store returns.

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The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been tracking reported salmonella cases since last Wednesday.

The Washington State Department of Health said it had three reported cases of salmonella possibly linked to the Banquet pies. The cases were in Snohomish, Yakima and Spokane counties.

Department spokesman Jeff Smith said the three people recovered and were not hospitalized.

The USDA said the Marshall, Mo., plant made Banquet and store-brand pot pies. All of the pot pies made at the plant have “P-9″ printed on the side of the box as part of a code above the use-by date.

The pies are safe when cooked according to directions, said ConAgra spokeswoman Stephanie Childs.

William Keene, a senior communicable-disease epidemiologist at the Oregon Public Health Division who is tracking the outbreak, disagreed.

“If you cook anything long and hot enough you can kill salmonella. But the story is that hundreds of people have apparently not been able to do that; either they didn’t follow the instructions or the instructions were inadequate.”

ConAgra says it is working with the USDA to clarify the cooking instructions.

USDA said the exact source of the outbreak is not known.

Salmonella sickens about 40,000 people a year in the United States and kills about 600.

In February, the CDC linked ConAgra’s peanut butter, including Peter Pan, to the illnesses of more than 625 people in 47 states. ConAgra resumed shipping Peter Pan in August.

Seattle Times staff reporter Kyung M. Song contributed to this report.


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