Melbourne Coroners' Court heard yesterday how salmonella contaminated peanut butter produced by Kraft Foods led to the death of an elderly man.

Seventy-two year old Victor Robinson was admitted to hospital in April 1996 suffering from pneumonia and sickness; he died four weeks later and an autopsy revealed salmonella pathogens in his lungs. High-profile microbiologist Dr Beverly-Anne Biggs explained to yesterday's court hearing that she believed he would not have died if he had not consumed the product.

She is quoted in the Herald Sun newspaper as telling the court: "The significant factor in why the patient died is the salmonella."

The peanut butter consumed by Robinson was from a contaminated batch of peanuts produced at the Kingaroy plant of the Australian Peanut Company (APC). The products led to a nationwide salmonella scare and a class action bought by more than 500 people against Kraft, which produces ten brands of peanut butter and purchased its peanuts from the APC.

Lawyers working on behalf of Kraft and APC have conceded that salmonella contamination occurred, but the companies deny that the poisoning was the cause of Robinson's death.

Melbourne Coroner Jacinta Heffey is due to announce her findings at a later date.