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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Stewart Parnell’s business, Peanut Corporation of America, sickened 700 and killed 9. Where is the accountability?

Sunday’s Atlanta Journal Constitution (AJC) said it all: “Blakely peanut illness: Little has changed since scare.”  Not only has Food Safety taken a back seat to nearly everything else in Washington DC, but the political theater that is always Washington has accomplished nothing in bringing justice to those 700, nor the families of the 9 who died.

Who can forget the PCA emails?

“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.”

As, the AJC noted:

As for possible criminal charges, a Georgia Bureau of Investigation spokesman said the agency dropped its investigation last year and left it to federal authorities. Federal agencies ranging from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to the FBI to the U.S. Attorney in Macon declined to comment.

Families of victims waver between frustration and outrage. The primary target of their anger: Stewart Parnell, the Peanut Corp. chief executive. When he appeared before Congress last February he declined to answer questions about e-mails and other information that investigators say indicated he knowingly ordered contaminated peanut products sent to buyers.

Bill Marler, a Seattle attorney handling lawsuits for about 45 victims, said, “In 17 years of litigating every major food-borne illness outbreak in the U.S., I have not seen a clearer situation that demanded criminal prosecution.”

Parnell declined to speak with the AJC for this story. One of his lawyers, W. William Gust, said investigators have not contacted Parnell in about six months.

No wonder that people become disgusted with government.  True, Washington has had a few things on its plate, Health Care, Afghanistan, the Economy, etc.  However, food safety legislation passed overwhelmingly last July out of the House and made it out of the Senate HELP committee in the Fall.  Since then – nothing.

A criminal investigation and prosecution against Peanut Corporation of America (PCA), although talked about loudly by all in early 2009, has gone nowhere since.

700 people and the families of 9 deserve and answer.

  • Karen

    Why no prosecution? Can anyone hazard a guess why the feds won’t move in a case this extreme? Are they afraid of setting a precedent of action rather than passivity?

  • Jeff Almer

    You just have to love the spin coming out of Camp Stewie. Parnell‚Äôs attorney, Thomas Bondurant, said in a prepared statement. ‚ÄúMr. Parnell never intentionally harmed anyone”. This seems to be a popular refrain from the family also. I would compare this inane statement to a drunk driver that has killed someone. A drunk driver doesn‚Äôt set out to hurt anyone but at least he‚Äôs drunk and loses his mental acuity. Parnell knew what he was doing.

  • Carolyn Dawson

    Reading this article has really upset me concidering I was one of the people who became very ill from the product. I feel Mr.Parnell should be held liable since he knew the product was comtaminated.

  • Ketto

    This is the only current news story anywhere near the top results in Google. This story was pushed under the rug… I don’t know what should be done to hold those responsible accountable. Maybe people should write their Congressman.

  • Pam

    This is unacceptable, now that it’s been out of the media, it’s gone on a back burner. If there are no consequences then what’s to stop this from happening again. There’s no justice if there is no prosecution what message is that sending to big corporations!

  • craig

    Just like the GOV not to have done anything.We now have a oil gushing oil into the gulf and where are they.I’ll tell you, helping them self to BP Money.