Peanut Butter Recall Leads to Indictments: Executives Related to 2009 Peanut Butter Salmonella Recall Face Indictments
In the wake of the 2009 salmonella outbreak that was traced to contaminated peanut products, and an investigation by several federal agencies, four former executives from the now-defunct Peanut Corp. of America have been named in a 76-count indictment that was unsealed on February 20. Among the charges against the executives include conspiracy, mail and wire fraud and obstruction of justice. In addition, there are numerous other charges related to the distribution of mis-branded and/or adulterated food.
According to federal officials, the executives, including the President, Vice President, Plant Operations Manager and Plant Quality Assurance Manager, all allegedly were aware that their products had tested positive for salmonella, but had failed to alert their customers to the contamination. They also allegedly lied about those test results to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspectors.
According to reports from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), at the time of the outbreak, which began in January 2009 and led to one of the largest food recalls in history, salmonella from these peanut products are believed to have sickened at least 714 people in 46 states and may have contributed to at least nine deaths.
In addition to FDA inspections that uncovered unsanitary conditions at the plant, investigators found internal documents showing that the company allegedly continued to ship the products, even in the face of internal testing revealing salmonella contamination. At the same time, according to a statement from the Justice Department, the executives allegedly falsified documents, stating “that shipments of peanut products were free of pathogens when, in fact, there had been no tests on the products at all or when the laboratory results showed that a sample tested positive for salmonella.” In some cases, internal company e-mails allegedly show the executives ordering peanut products shipped, even though they hadn’t yet done required salmonella testing.
At the time of the outbreak, Peanut Corp of America supplied fully 2.5% of the nation’s peanut products, including peanut butter, peanut cookies and crackers, ice cream and candies. It’s entirely possible the illnesses and deaths reported thus far may be the tip of a very large iceberg.
While salmonella may only result in some gastrointestinal discomfort in some people, it can be a lot worse for some folks, including small children, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems. If you or someone you love has become sick, and you suspect contamination from eating some of these tainted peanut products may be to blame, you should contact a lawyer who will protect your rights. If you need to speak to a lawyer regarding food borne illness injuries, call the Texas Food Poisoning Injury Lawyer at Hill Law Firm today.