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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Federal Grand jury Indicts Five in connection with 2009 Salmonella Outbreak

My favorite quote of the day (AP):

Bill Marler, an attorney who represented many of the victims in the peanut case, has specialized in food safety law for 20 years. He says this is the first time he can remember such a scathing indictment on a food poisoning case.

“If I were an executive of a company, today I’d be asking my lawyers, `How does this not happen to me?’” Marler said.

A close second (WSJ):

Bill Marler, a Seattle lawyer who represents victims of food-borne illnesses, including in the Peanut Corp. case, said the charges would make other food executives take notice.

“In 20 years, this is the first time I’ve seen a criminal indictment of this magnitude,” said Mr. Marler, who added he has also been contacted by federal law-enforcement officials investigating a 2010 salmonella outbreak linked to eggs from Iowa and a 2011 Colorado listeria outbreak linked to cantaloupes.

And, then the LA Times coming in at No. 3:

Food safety lawyer William D. Marler said the indictments will have a “far-reaching impact on the food industry.”

“Corporate executives and directors of food safety will need to think hard about the safety of their product when it enters the stream of commerce,” he said.

The Oregonian too:

“In 20 years of doing these kinds of cases, this is the first time I’ve ever seen a U.S. attorney or grand jury indict someone for poisoning people with food,” said Seattle attorney Bill Marler, who has represented several people sickened in the outbreak. “It’s stunning.”

Then from Food Safety News:

“These indictments will have a far reaching impact on the food industry,” said attorney Bill Marler, who represented hundreds of individuals in claims against PCA and whose law firm, Marler Clark, underwrites Food Safety News. “Corporate executives and directors of food safety will need to think hard about the safety of their product when it enters the stream of commerce. Felony counts like this one are rare, but misdemeanor charges that can include fines and jail time can and should happen.”

Five charged with conspiracy, fraud and obstruction of justice.

Stewart Parnell, the former owner of Peanut Corp. of America, is among those being charged. The 76-count indictment also charges Michael Parnell, who is Stewart Parnell’s brother and a former supervisor; Samuel Lightsey, a onetime plant operator; and Mary Wilkerson, a former quality-assurance manager, in connection with the food poisoning.  The fifth defendant, Daniel Kilgore, has plead guilty.

I have developed a friendship with many of Stewart Parnell’s victims of the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) Salmonella outbreak of 2009.  Many of them attended a press conference in 2011, where they asked why after two years Parnell was still free?  Re-reading internal emails from PCA from 2008 and 2009, I had to ask why too?

“Turn them loose,” Parnell had told his plant manager in an internal e-mail disclosed at the House hearing. The e-mail referred to products that once were deemed contaminated but were cleared in a second test last year.

Parnell ordered products identified with salmonella to be shipped and quoting his complaints that tests discovering the contaminated food were “costing us huge $$$$$.”

Parnell insisted that the outbreak did not start at his plant, calling that a misunderstanding by the media and public health officials. “No salmonella has been found anywhere else in our products, or in our plants, or in any unopened containers of our product.”

Parnell complained to a worker after they notified him that salmonella had been found in more products. “I go thru this about once a week,” he wrote in a June 2008 e-mail. “I will hold my breath ………. again.”

 

According to the CDC, 714 persons infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium were reported from 46 states. The number of ill persons identified in each state was as follows: Alabama (2), Arizona (14), Arkansas (6), California (81), Colorado (18), Connecticut (11), Florida (1), Georgia (6), Hawaii (6), Idaho (17), Illinois (12), Indiana (11), Iowa (3), Kansas (2), Kentucky (3), Louisiana (1), Maine (5), Maryland (11), Massachusetts (49), Michigan (38), Minnesota (44), Missouri (15), Mississippi (7), Montana (2), Nebraska (1), New Hampshire (14), New Jersey (24), New York (34), Nevada (7), North Carolina (6), North Dakota (17), Ohio (102), Oklahoma (4), Oregon (15), Pennsylvania (19), Rhode Island (5), South Dakota (4), Tennessee (14), Texas (10), Utah (8), Vermont (4), Virginia (24), Washington (25), West Virginia (2), Wisconsin (5), and Wyoming (2). Additionally, one ill person was reported from Canada.

The CDC went on to state that among the persons with confirmed, reported dates available, illnesses began between September 1, 2008 and March 31, 2009. Patients ranged in age from <1 to 98 years. The median age of patients was 16 years which means that half of ill persons were younger than 16 years. 21% were age <5 years, 17% were >59 years. 48% of patients were female. Among persons with available information, 24% reported being hospitalized. Infection contributed to nine deaths: Idaho (1), Minnesota (3), North Carolina (1), Ohio (2), and Virginia (2).