Associated Press’ Russ Bynum and Michael Warren have been following the PCA criminal trial (along with Food Safety News). I had a chance to talk with them between the IAFP Conference and the CTLA Convention.
The CDC says it has tracked salmonella outbreaks since 1962. It even has an interactive map with county-by-county information on the impact. And while many sources are never discovered, dozens of food producers have been identified through the years. Some egregious incidents have resulted in fines, and victims have found private attorneys to file civil lawsuits that often get settled out of court. But illnesses, and deaths, continue.
“Could all these people have been charged criminally with something? The answer is, hell yes,” said Bill Marler, an attorney who claims to have won $500 million for victims of food-borne illnesses over the past two decades.
Three other cases — a salmonella outbreak traced to eggs in Iowa, a listeria outbreak blamed on dirty cantaloupes in Colorado and an E. coli outbreak linked to Odwalla juices in California — resulted in federal plea deals without prison time. This is the first to go to trial, Marler said.
“I’m a firm believer in using the civil justice system to hold people accountable. But these criminal prosecutions have really got people’s attention,” said Marler. “It’s a completely different viewpoint that these CEOs and managers have when they’re facing jail time and fines that aren’t insured.”
Meanwhile, the FDA lacks the resources to regularly inspect food producers, and when outbreaks happen, they largely depend on their goodwill to find the source.
Here are some of the slides that I used at IAFP and CTLA:
Shoot me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org), if you would like the above slides.