Thursday, January 7, 2010

Volume 4, Number 3: Parnell's (Evident Lack of) Pride

(Note: I originally published this entry to my Yahoo! GeoCities blog on February 11, 2009.)

Anyone who reads my blog--OK, maybe there are three of you--knows that I hate food poisoning, having had two bouts with bad restaurant food that made me severely nauseous. Past blog entries have touched upon the Chinese tainting milk and gluten with melamine in order to pass tests for protein content, a massive 143 million-pound recall of ground beef, and the bagged spinach crisis of 2006.

I had not blogged about the no-longer-so-recent matter involving the Peanut Corporation of America for a few reasons. One is that I've been busy at work; the other is that new developments keep coming up in that case. First it was that PCA was re-testing products that tested positive for salmonella, then shipping them once they tested negative at another lab. Then there was the report of a shipment of PCA product that was rejected in Canada and then could not be allowed back into the US because it contained a filthy, putrid or decomposed substance.” Then there was the matter of a plant in Texas operating for four years without a license or any inspections whatsoever.

But earlier today came the worst story yet. The head of the PCA, Stewart Parnell, whom I thought must be shaken to the core because his surname appears on a brand of peanut butter made by PCA (Parnell's Pride), is the one who urged the shipment of contaminated products. According to internal correspondence released by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which can be found on this web page, Parnell complained about shipment delays and losing money.

(In the picture above, Rep. Greg Walden, a Republican from Oregon, holds up a jar of recalled peanut products while questioning Stewart Parnell.)

Parnell refused to testify today before a House subcommittee. In particular, Rep. Walden asked Parnell if he would be willing to unseal a jar of recalled peanut products and eat any of them, and Parnell did not answer, instead invoking the Fifth Amendment. If the over 600 hospitalizations and the eight deaths were nails in PCA's coffin, then consider Parnell's actions leading to and during the crisis to be a nuclear bomb in that coffin.

A federal criminal investigation is underway, needless to say. Bill Marler, an attorney who has specialized in tainted food cases for over 15 years, keeps a blog that covers this developing crisis as well as other food poisoning cases.

FYI I bought some peanut butter cracker sandwiches last fall. Fortunately for me, they were Lance, a brand that is on the safe products list. Yes, the recall is so widespread that the FDA actually had to make a list of products that are not subject to it, and that is unheard of to me.

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