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Stewart Parnell, the former president of the Peanut Corp. of America who ran the company when it apparently shipped product that had tested positive for salmonella contamination, is back in the business, working as a consultant to other peanut companies, it was reported yesterday by the Associated Press.

While the company is bankrupt and there have been numerous reports that Parnell both authorized the shipment of contaminated product and did not invest in basic food safety infrastructure that would have prevented such problems, Parnell has not been charged with any crime and the investigation against him has “languished,” according to AP.

Yesterday’s story notes that Parnell is frustrated by the delays, and that the families of nine people who died from the salmonella outbreak would like to see him in jail.

Parnell tells AP that he is not making any money from his consulting work.
KC's View:
To be perfectly honest, my thinking on this story has gone about 180 degrees since I first saw it come over the wires yesterday.

My first reaction was outrage that this guy - who from all accounts, put the bottom line before basic food safety tents, resulting in the deaths of nine people and the sickening of hundreds more - is back in the business. I’ve said for a long time that Stewart Parnell’s picture ought to be posted in the break room of every food company in America, reminding people of what can happen when negligence and greed exceed common sense and vigilance. And I still feel that way.

But I’m just as outraged - at least for the moment - by the notion that it takes either the Justice Department or the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) so long to resolve this investigation. Hard to imagine what is taking so long.

That said ... I suppose that if there were any evidence of real sorrow or regret from Parnell, it could be argued that he’s the perfect person to advise people about what not to do when it comes to food safety. Remember “Catch Me If You Can”? Master forger and con man Frank Abagnale Jr. was precisely the right person to help the FBI track down forgers. Remember “To Catch A Thief” and “It Takes A Thief” and, most recently, “White Collar”? The examples hold.

But Parnell has be called to account for his actions and inactions. There has to be a resolution to his case. It has to be public, it has to be significant, and it has to send chills down the spines of anyone else with responsibility for safe food.