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The Washington Post reported last week that Stewart Parnell, the former CEO of the now-bankrupt Peanut Corporation of America (PCA), is facing a possible life sentence related to his company's implication in a salmonella outbreak across 46 states that killed nine people and sickened some 700 others.

The story notes that the life sentence has been recommended to the judge in the case by federal authorities, following Parnell's conviction last year on "71 criminal counts, which included conspiracy, obstruction of justice and wire fraud." An investigation into the case found that the company shipped peanut butter and peanut paste in containers that were "partially covered in dust and rat crap,” the court documents said; it was widely reported that the manufacturing facility had fecal matter and "mold, roaches and water leaks", and that the situation was never rectified because it would have cost money and taken time, and Parnell was focused on making his numbers.

The Post writes that "at trial, prosecutors laid out a seven-week paper trail that included e-mails, lab results and financial records that showed Parnell not only knew about the contamination but had worked to cover it up while he continued to ship bad products to food processors ... The U.S. Department of Justice said Parnell and others made up lab test results when the food had never even been tested and covered up results that later showed the products were tainted."
KC's View:
I missed this story last week when it broke, but I'm glad that my work on a separate project brought it to my attention. I have no idea whether life in prison is appropriate when compared to other sentences, but I do think that it is critically important for the government to send a harsh message to the food industry - if you place a higher premium on the bottom line than on consumer safety, you're going up the river.

Keep in mind ... one of the things that the new Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) does is make senior executives personally culpable for lapses that create food safety issues. Might as well start sending the message now, and doing it with the guy who is the poster child for food safety malfeasance.

I still think that in lieu of a life sentence, they should make this clown eat the contaminated peanut butter. Three times a day, every day. Doesn't sound like cruel and unusual punishment to me ... in fact, it sounds just about right.

I was amused to see that Parnell's attorney told the Associated Press that the life sentence recommendation was "truly absurd," adding, “We hope the judge will see that Stewart Parnell never meant to hurt anyone. He ate the peanut butter himself. He fed it to his children and to his grandchildren.”

Really? Because I'd like to see video proof of them eating products made with the peanut butter products that came from his factory. I'm not at all convinced that it exists, since how could anyone who knowingly made up lab results and shipped out contaminated product feed that poison to his family? And if he did ... well, if I were a member of his family, I'd have some choice words for him. (Three words, to be precise. The first one would start with "w," the second one with "t," and the last one with "f.")