CHERRY HILL, N.J. (AP) _ Vlasic Foods International, the company behind Swanson's frozen dinners and Open Pit brand barbecue sauce as well as its famous pickles, sought protection from creditors under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy laws on Monday, company spokesman Kevin Lowery said.

The company, which was spun off by Campbell Soup Co. almost two years ago, borrowed about $560 million to pay Campbell as part of the spinoff. But it was unable to make a $10 million interest payment earlier this month.

CEO Robert F. Bernstock, who had led the company from its start, resigned Jan. 10.

The company lost $30 million in the fiscal year 2000 and was forced to cut 45 jobs at its suburban Philadelphia headquarters.

Lowery said the bankruptcy filing was made in Delaware. He would not give details.

The company also makes Swanson's pot pies and microwavable breakfasts and has two businesses in the United Kingdom: Freshbake, which makes frozen meat pies and sausages, and Stratford on Avon, which makes canned and jarred beans, pickles, fruits and vegetables.

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On the Net:

http://www.vlasic.com