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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Peanut Butter Public Relations – Sometimes it is Better to Say “I’m Sorry”

Lets get this straight, Peanut Corporation of America’s Salmonella-tainted peanut butter products, according to the CDC, have sickened 575 in 43 States and Canada with nearly 150 hospitalized and eight deaths.  Salmonella has been found in cans of King Nut peanut butter and in Kellogg crackers linked to the PCA plant.  Salmonella has been found in the PCA plant itself.  The FDA lists some 1,500 products have been recalled, likely costing over $100,000,000.  The peanut industry is in a free-fall.  The FDA has found that PCA knowingly shipped products contaminated with Salmonella on multiple occasions.  The Office of Criminal Investigations is swarming over the PCA plant and criminal indictments are imminent.  PCA will file Bankruptcy on Monday.  Its insurance company, Hartford, is suing it.   Its owner, Mr. Parnell, was thrown off the USDA’s Peanut Standards Board and will be under oath before a Congressional Committee Wednesday.  And, one PCA employee was quoted as saying:

"I never ate the peanut butter, and I wouldn’t allow my kids to eat it."

So, what is PCA’s most recent response?

“We have not made a determination yet on liability,” said attorney Amy Rotenberg. “We are neither denying or admitting liability at this point. We are still investigating.”

Gee, I guess Amy knows what she is doing – “As principal of Rotenberg Associates LLC, Amy provides strategic communications counsel to clients facing adverse publicity in connection with federal and state litigation, government investigations, product recalls, employee malfeasance, media probes and other reputational crises.  By working in close coordination with her clients’ attorneys, she specializes in helping clients who find themselves at the intersection of legal claims, regulatory attacks and media scrutiny.”

To borrow a quote from former President Bush – “[Amy], you’re doing a heck of a job."

Amy, might this be a better, more honorable approach for Mr. Parnell and PCA:

1. Say that you are sorry and that you are at fault. What do you have to loose, you are in fact at fault;

2. You should pay the medical bills and all related expenses of the 575 victims and their families;

3. You should offer to pay the cost of all related Health Department, CDC and FDA investigations;

4. You should provide all bacterial and viral testing of all recalled product and any other tested product (before and after recall), and;

5. You should release all inspection reports on the plants by any Governmental Entity or Third-party Auditor.

Sometimes it is better to get ahead of a train that is about to hit you.