Victims of the salmonella outbreak linked to peanut products from the Peanut Corporation of America called a meeting in Washington, D.C. on Friday to demand criminal charges be brought against the company’s former CEO.
The nationwide salmonella outbreak was linked to more than 700 reported illnesses and nine deaths in 2009, and resulted in one of the largest food product recalls in US history. The US Attorney’s Office has been investigating Peanut Corporation of America’s former CEO Stewart Parnell and other former executives at PCA for the past two years, but no criminal charges have been brought to date.
Parnell refused to testify at a Congressional hearing in February 2009, at which he was accused of caring more about profits than food safety. The accusation came after a number of internal emails were published, including one in which Parnell expressed concern about the cost of holding and retesting products after a batch of peanut meal tested positive for salmonella. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also accused the company of knowingly shipping salmonella-tainted products.
However, Parnell told FoodNavigator-USA in March last year that the internal emails were taken out of context. He said: “The media and congressman took emails and read only partial lines of my emails in order to sensationalize and make a good story. Not all their fault as they were guided by Tort Attorneys trying to get clients.”
Food safety attorney Bill Marler, who represents the victims of foodborne illness outbreaks, said: “In my many years of handling food safety cases, I’ve yet to see a circumstance that has so clearly warranted criminal prosecution as the corporate mismanagement involved in the PCA outbreak.”
The company filed for chapter 7 bankruptcy two years ago.
The meeting of salmonella victims and their families at the American University Washington College of Law has been scheduled to coincide with the Government Accountability Project (GAP) Food Integrity Campaign Conference , which is due to begin at 12.30 EST.