Life sentence recommended for former PCA president

It’s trite and cliched, but a food safety culture begins at the top of a company. CEOs, COOs, presidents and other business-y people have to value not making customers ill to really establish a working food safety program.

And provide resources to operational staff – the folks who put process and training systems in place to make food safer.8387b40a8cc5f54c53dc3a171e921aaa25744918

Most companies have internal conflicts on food safety priorities – but the good ones don’t let profits and market trump public health – like Stewart Parnell, former Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) president did.

The shockingly poor food safety culture established by Parnell’s Salmonella-positive-just-ship-it mentality spread throughout the company, resulting in over 700 illnesses and 9 deaths linked to PCA’s products.

According to Korin Miller at Yahoo News, Parnell’s actions have led prosecutors to recommend a life sentence in prison.

The recommendation for his sentencing, which a lawyer for one of the victims called “unprecedented,” was revealed on Wednesday, the Associated Press reports.

After a seven-week trial, Parnell and his brother, food broker Michael Parnell, were both charged with 76 federal counts linked to intentionally shipping peanut products that tested positive for salmonella, CNN reports.

This case is disturbing because salmonella is so potentially dangerous, says food safety specialist Benjamin Chapman, an associate professor at North Carolina State University. “Not everybody who eats salmonella is going to get sick, but the issue is that you don’t know if you’re going to get sick,” he tells Yahoo Health. “That’s why we really don’t want to have salmonella in our food.”

So, while Parnell’s case is unprecedented, the proposed punishment does seem to fit the crime. “We saw through the trial that some really egregious things happened,” says Chapman. “It’s important that people who have knowingly done things to negatively effect other people’s health are held responsible and accountable — it sounds like that’s being done here.”

Peanut-man Parnell back to work as nut consult

Associated Press reports that Stewart Parnell, former president of the now-bankrupt Peanut Corp. of America whose filthy processing plants were blamed in a salmonella outbreak two years ago that killed nine people and sickened hundreds, is back in the business.

Parnell is working as a consultant to peanut companies as the federal government’s criminal investigation against him has languished for more than 18 months, The Associated Press has learned.

Parnell, who invoked the Fifth Amendment to avoid testifying before Congress in February 2009, once directed employees to "turn them loose" after samples of peanuts had tested positive for salmonella and then were cleared in a second test, according to e-mails uncovered at the time by congressional investigators.

In an interview with the AP, Parnell expressed exasperation and said he wants the pending criminal investigation resolved — one way or another.

"They just say we’re still investigating," Parnell said. "I feel like I wish they’d come on and do what they’re going to do. I’d like to get this behind me."

Parnell also said he has been directed by his lawyers not to discuss his case with family members of the nine people who died in the salmonella outbreak blamed on his processed peanuts.

"My God, when are we going to hold anyone responsible?" said Jeff Almer, whose mother, Shirley Almer, was the first known death from the outbreak in Minnesota. "So far to this day, nothing’s happened to this man. I think every person in America who was affected by this, every family who lost someone, deserves to hear the truth from this guy."

Nosestretcher alert: After 9 dead, 700 sick from PCA Salmonella, CEO Parnell’s lawyer says ‘I never intentionally harmed anyone’ Victim says ‘I don’t want no peanut butter in my house’

Producers, companies, food service, they are all responsible to serve safe food. Or they’ll get sued.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports today that a year after peanut butter crackers nearly killed him, Claude Ivester still has not fully recovered, and the food safety net remains largely unchanged.

The 74-year-old feels weaker than he did before he contracted salmonella food poisoning. He forgets more. He’s quit his job at a recycling plant. He can’t look at a jar of peanut butter without getting angry.

“I don’t want no peanut butter in my house.”

In Washington, food safety legislation is stuck in Congress, pushed to the Senate back burner by health care.

Meanwhile, criminal investigations into bankrupt Peanut Corp. of America, owner of the plant, and its top executives have produced no charges.