retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The US Department of Justice has filed felony charges agains Stewart Parnell, former owner of the Peanut Corp. of America, saying that he and other employees "engaged in a multiyear conspiracy to hide the fact that many of the company's products were tainted with salmonella," according to a story in the Wall Street Journal.

The charges are related to a salmonella outbreak in 2008-2009 that sickened hundreds of people and killed nine; it was traced back to peanut butter produced in a plant that had "a leaky roof, poor ventilation and inadequate pest control," the Journal writes. Contemporaneous accounts suggested that Parnell's company was operating equipment that was contaminated with bird feces, but that it was so concerned with making its numbers that it paid no attention to the food safety risks.

The Journal writes that "the 76-count indictment against Mr. Parnell and ex-employees includes charges of conspiracy, wire fraud, obstruction of justice and introducing adulterated food into the market."

The story notes that Parnell's lawyers say they plan to mount a vigorous defense, and that any shipment of contaminated product was accidental and unintentional.
KC's View:
I have two reactions to this indictment.

1. Good.

2. It's about time.

From the time this story broke several years ago, it seemed obvious from all the reportage that this was a case where a desire to make money trumped every other consideration, including the fact that the product sickened people and called into question the efficacy of the entire food safety system.

As in every case like this, I have a suggestion for sentencing should Parnell and his people be found guilty. Fine them, jail them, do whatever you want to them ... but make sure that as part of their punishment, they have to sit in a room and eat peanut butter products that originated from their own factory.

Let them eat the stuff, and then watch them sweat as they choke on their own arrogance, greed and misplaced priorities.

That ought to be the standard punishment for anyone convicted of food safety violations. Make 'em eat the stuff they were so careless about selling to other people.