Header graphic for print
Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Is it time to press charges against CEOs of major retailers – restaurant chains and grocery stores – for “Introduction of Adulterated and Misbranded Food into Interstate Commerce?”

The Iowa City Gazette reports that three years after a nationwide Salmonella outbreak caused by contaminated eggs from Iowa, federal prosecutors are still seeking criminal charges.  Attorneys in Iowa’s Northern District are waiting to sentence a former manager of an Iowa egg company involved in the 2010 outbreak that sickened about 2,000 people, possibly to see what testimony he provides to a grand jury that continues to investigate the case.

Tony Wasmund, 62, of Willmar, Minn., pleaded guilty in September to conspiring to bribe a federal egg inspector at Wright County Egg, one of the Iowa egg farms operated by Austin “Jack” DeCoster and Peter DeCoster, a father and son from Clarion.  The delay feeds speculation that prosecutors are using Wasmund’s testimony to a Cedar Rapids grand jury to implicate others in the DeCoster egg operations.

I wonder if the DeCosters will be cellmates with Stewart Parnell and others who have been charged and face trial this fall on numerous counts of Mail Fraud, Wire Fraud, Introduction of Adulterated and Misbranded Food into Interstate Commerce with Intent to Defraud or Mislead and Conspiracy?

You might recall the Peanut Corporation of America 2009 Salmonella outbreak.  714 persons infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium were reported from 46 states.  Additionally, one ill person was reported from Canada.  Nine deaths: Idaho (1), Minnesota (3), North Carolina (1), Ohio (2), and Virginia (2) were reported.

Perhaps, just perhaps, we are seeing an increase in activity by US Attorneys against the manufacturers of food that poisons?

As I said to one last week, however, until US Attorneys sit down with the CEOs of major retailers – restaurant chains and grocery stores – and explain to them how they too can be charged with “Introduction of Adulterated and Misbranded Food into Interstate Commerce,” food safety in the US is just a dream.  Until retailers become part of the food safety solution – from farm to fork – instead of setting specification that they ignore, requite audits that they know are BS, push all liability up the supply chain and then squeeze the growers, manufacturers and shippers on price – food safety is illusory.

Perhaps a few well placed criminal investigations of a few restaurant chain and grocery store CEOs would change that?