retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

Today is the day when the chickens come home to roost. Metaphorically speaking.

The Associated Press reports that one year after Stewart Parnell, the former CEO of Peanut Corporation of America (PCA), was convicted in a jury trial "of crimes behind a salmonella outbreak blamed for killing nine people and sickening hundreds more," he faces a judge in his final sentencing hearing.

According to the story, "A sentencing hearing was scheduled for Monday in Albany, Georgia, for the 61-year-old former owner of Peanut Corporation of America. Due in U.S. District Court with Parnell were two co-defendants — his brother and a plant manager — also found guilty in what experts called the first food-poisoning trial of American food processors.

"Parnell was convicted Sept. 19, 2014, of knowingly shipping salmonella-tainted peanut butter from his plant in Blakely, Georgia, to Kellogg's and other customers who used it in products from packaged crackers to pet food. The jury also found Parnell and his brother, food broker Michael Parnell, guilty of faking results of lab tests intended to screen for salmonella."

The story notes that "Parnell faces a possible prison sentence of 9,636 months — which comes to 803 years. The U.S. Probation Office, which prepares pre-sentencing reports to help guide federal judges, recommended the stiff sentence based on the number of illnesses as well as estimates that the outbreak, which triggered one of the largest food recalls in U.S. history, cost Parnell's corporate customers $144 million."

The judge in the case has the authority to impose a more lenient sentence.

But whatever the judge does, the case should serve as a shot across the bow of every food industry company and senior executive, since the new Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) provisions create a regulatory environment in which C-level executive scan be held personally culpable for their food safety misdeeds. And when those actions are as baldly premeditated as those at PCA, then the government seems likely to throw the book at those responsible.

It is an Eye-Opener.
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