Former Peanut Officials Indicted
Written by Faith Anderson on February 26, 2013
Charges PCA Officials Face
Among the charges included in the indictment are the following:
(Count 1) 28. It was part of the conspiracy that the defendants and others shipped and caused to be shipped peanut products before receiving the results of microbiological testing performed on said products…
29. It was further part of the conspiracy that the defendants and others shipped and caused to be shipped peanut products after having received the results of microbiological testing performed on said products indicating that the products were confirmed positive for, and therefore contained and adulterated by, salmonella…
31. It was further part of the conspiracy that the defendants and others shipped and caused to be shipped peanut products without ever submitting a sample from said lot for microbiological testing by a laboratory, despite customers’ specifications requiring such testing…
33. It was further part of the conspiracy that the defendants and others made false statements to their customers about the presence of salmonella in the … plant environment and in the products manufactured at the … plant, claiming that there had never been even a trace of a salmonella problem, when, in truth and fact, salmonella had previously been detected in the plant, and salmonella had been detected in the products manufactured there on numerous occasions every year dating back to 2003.
Scandalous Emails Sent By PCA President
The PCA executives, of course, denied the charges, claiming that U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials inspected the plant regularly and approved the company’s practices. Unfortunately for former PCA president Stewart Parnell, his apparent disregard for the importance of food safety was perfectly preserved in the emails he sent, which were clearly outlined in the indictment:
(Count 2) 16. On or about March 21, 2007, upon being told that salmonella testing results were not yet available and that shipment of a portion of a customer’s product would therefore be delayed, Stewart Parnell stated, via email: “Sh-t, just ship it. I cannot afford to loose (sic) another customer.”
28. On or about August 16, 2007, in discussing the possibility of PCA obtaining its own laboratory testing equipment, Stewart Parnell, via email, stated…: “These lab tests and (certificates of analysis) are f—ing breaking me/us.”
PCA Accused of Deliberately and Repeatedly Violating Food Safety Laws
Not only is the peanut Salmonella case important because of its unusual size and because of the action being taken against former company executives by the Department of Justice, it also serves the purpose of drawing public attention to the importance of food safety laws and the potentially deadly consequences that can result from a company’s failure to adhere to federal regulations. As presented by the federal government in the 52-page indictment, the nationwide Salmonella outbreak was not an accidental contamination, nor was it the unintentional sale of a product in which a deadly contamination could not have been avoided. It was, according to government officials, a deliberate and repeated violation of food safety laws by executives who were allegedly indifferent to the harm it could cause consumers. If company practices such as those described in the PCA indictment are not prosecuted to the full extent of the law, it begs the question of why federal food safety laws exist in the first place.