Today justice was served – Stewart Parnell was sentenced to 28 years in prison, his brother Michael 20 years and an employee, Mary Wilkerson to 5 years. They knowingly shipped Salmonella-tainted peanuts that sickened 714 and killed nine in 2009.
But, there is still much to do.
The CDC reported that as of September 15, 2015, a total of 418 illnesses from Salmonella Poona have been reported from 31 states. The victims of the outbreak include: Alaska (10), Arizona (72), Arkansas (6), California (89), Colorado (16), Hawaii (1), Idaho (14), Illinois (6), Indiana (2), Kansas (1), Kentucky (1), Louisiana (4), Minnesota (20), Missouri (8), Montana (13), Nebraska (2), Nevada (9), New Mexico (22), New York (4), North Dakota (2), Ohio (2), Oklahoma (10), Oregon (8), Pennsylvania (2), South Carolina (8), Texas (20), Utah (37), Virginia (1), Washington (15), Wisconsin (9), and Wyoming (4). There are deaths in Arizona (1) California (1) and Texas (1). The illnesses are linked to Salmonella-tainted cucumbers soured by Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce, Inc., a corporation based in San Diego, California and grown in Mexico.
I knew that sounded a bit familiar, according to the CDC, in March 1997, a total of 153 cases of hepatitis A were reported in Calhoun County, Michigan. 151 case-patients were students or staff of schools in four different school districts. A case-control and cohort study conducted in two different school districts established a strong association between illness and consumption of food items containing frozen strawberries. The strawberries associated with illness were reportedly from Mexico; a company in southern California processed, packed, and froze the strawberries in 30-pound containers for commercial use and then distributed the strawberries to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)-sponsored school lunch programs.
Later that year the Justice Department announced that a federal probe into the sale of hepatitis A-tainted strawberries ended in November with criminal and civil pleas by a strawberry distributor and its president. The March, 1997 outbreak contaminated 198 school children and teachers in Michigan, as well as others in Maine and Wisconsin.
Andrew and Williamson Sales Co., Inc. (“A&W”), and its president, Frederick L. Williamson, admitted their role in the fraudulent sale of 1,742,280 pounds of Mexican grown strawberries to the USDA’s school lunch program. As part of a parallel civil settlement, the company has agreed to pay the government $1.3 million in civil damages. The indictment charges A&W with attempting to disguise the fact that the strawberries it was supplying to the USDA were not grown domestically, as required by the agency. Also, Richard H. Kershaw, the sales representative in charge of A&W’s frozen strawberry business entered a guilty plea.
Both defendants pleaded guilty to violations of conspiracy to defraud the United States, making a false statement, and making a false claim. Frederick L. Williamson, 61, president of Andrew and Williamson Co., spent five months in prison and five months in home custody. The federal judge also ordered Williamson’s company to pay $150,000 in restitution and a $200,000 fine. The company agreed to pay $1.3 million to the federal government.