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Peanut Recall of 2009 Leads to Criminal Charges

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on February 28, 2013 12:01 PM

The salmonella outbreak of 2009 has finally culminated in an indictment.

Maybe culminated is not the word, since an indictment is only the beginning in a criminal lawsuit.

Executives from the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) are facing criminal charges of fraud and conspiracy stemming from the 2009 salmonella outbreak, reports

This is a huge step for federal prosecutors, as the case moves from what is normally civil territory to criminal territory. The peanut officials have been charged with knowingly distributing salmonella-contaminated products.

Their actions lead to a massive outbreak that killed nine people. In total, 714 people were infected with salmonella in 46 states. While this was not the largest outbreak of salmonella, it was one of the more notorious ones, namely for the fact that there was some serious alleged misconduct. Initially, there were reasons to believe that many of the higher-ups at the PCA knew about the salmonella and turned a blind eye.

This seemed to be proved true after an investigation took place.

In a normal recall case, you’d see a personal injury action or a product liability lawsuit. But this isn’t your garden variety recall case. There are some serious health code violations and some apparent disregard for the law. That, in and of itself, is cause for some serious strict liability or gross negligence.

Here’s a list of just some of the violations:

  • unrepaired roof leaks
  • infestations of rodents and insects
  • machinery wasn’t properly calibrated to ensure safe handling

In a normal case, those wouldn’t always lead to jail time. But fake the lab results, and you might be looking at some criminal charges.

When lab results were still out on a particular box, PCA president Stewart Parnell sent out an email, ordering the box to be shipped, saying “[expletive], just ship it. I cannot afford to loose (sic) another customer,” reports Wired.

Also, there were also boxes that were reportedly shipped after lab results showed the contents to be contaminated.

Now, the PCA execs have to face charges of fraud. What goes around comes around, right?

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