“If that’s not criminal behavior, I don’t know what is.”
Sitting on a plane heading home to Seattle, I am still a bit stunned by the sentenced carried out yesterday in a Federal Courtroom in Georgia.
I was looking for the first time I raised the issue of prosecuting Stewart Parnell. I found it in a blog post from January 2009, shortly after the announcement of the outbreak and the recall and during the time when I was being briefly considered for a food safety position in the Obama Administration. Here is the post from the past:
While the Washington Post pondered if I would actually move from Seattle to Washington DC, yet another food recall was happening in the other – actual states. Here is a “round-up” of a few choice quotes:
Bill Marler, a Seattle attorney who has been suing food makers for years on behalf of people who get sick, said he’s never seen a company accused of shipping products that tested positive for a foodborne pathogen. “It’s insane,” he said. “You have to ask, what are these people thinking when the product is going into institutional settings with kids and older people? It’s just unconscionable.”
The report from the inspection, first posted on the Internet by Bill Marler, a lawyer, cites 12 instances in 2007 and 2008 in which the company’s own tests of its product found contamination by salmonella.
After obtaining a damning FDA report on PCA and posting it on his Web site, www.marlerblog.com, Marler added demands for unspecified punitive damages to the Meunier lawsuit. “We do not allege punitive damages in most cases. Just the most egregious,” Marler wrote on his blog Wednesday. “In fifteen years of litigating food cases, this is one of the worst examples of corporate responsibility I have ever seen.”
“If this doesn’t rise to a criminal level I don’t know what does,” food safety attorney Bill Marler told ABC News on Wednesday. Marler is suing the company on behalf of one consumer. Marler’s current advice? “I would think twice right now about giving a peanut butter product of any kind to someone under the age of 5 or over the age of 70.”
The FDA inspections also documented unsanitary conditions at the plant, including cockroaches, mold and leaking roofs. “This is one of the worst inspection reports I’ve seen in 15 years of practice,” Marler said.
As numbers climb higher, people like Marler are questioning the government’s ability to keep food safe as products make their way through a complex supply chain from farms to grocery store shelves to kitchen pantries. Today Marler said it’s key for the government to step up its efforts and require “across-the-board bacterial and viral testing on all ready-to-eat products. The reality is that, frankly, U.S. companies do a marvelous job at poisoning our own citizens,” Marler said. “Our focus on imported products are frankly misplaced given the fact that most food-borne illness outbreaks that occur in the United States are caused by homegrown companies.”
“It’s inconceivable that the FDA or the state of Georgia allowed a plant like this to operate,” says Seattle personal-injury attorney Bill Marler, who sued PCA in federal court in Albany, Ga., last week on behalf of a 7-year-old boy who got sick after eating salmonella-tainted peanut butter. “This company … got positive tests and shipped it in any event. If that’s not criminal behavior, I don’t know what is.”