Life sentence demanded for company owner who killed 9 with salmonella

Prosecutors recommended a life sentence for a former peanut company owner convicted in September for a salmonella outbreak that killed nine people in 2008.

Federal prosecutors filed a motion Thursday recommending Stewart Parnell, the former owner of Peanut Corp. of America, spend the rest of his life in prison. He was convicted on dozens of counts including conspiracy and fraud.

He and his brother, Michael Parnell, were each charged with 76 counts for intentionally shipping out salmonella-laced peanut products. Federal prosecutors said the brothers and Mary Wilkerson — a former quality control manager at the plant — cut corners to boost profits for Peanut Corp. of America.

They were also accused of covering up positive test results for salmonella in their products.

In addition to the nine deaths linked to the peanut products, more than 700 people were reportedly sickened.

William Marler, a Seattle-based food safety lawyer representing the victims told the Wall Street Journal, “it was an extraordinary verdict that could result in an extraordinary amount of time in jail for a food crime.”

Anyone who would commit murder using peanut butter deserves life without parole.

Less tongue-in-cheek, the creep is responsible for the deaths of nine people. I hope he gets what he deserves. And his lawyer deserves some time in jail for preventing a timely trial.

Our government hands poultry inspection over to the plant owners!


The Agriculture Department has released long-awaited poultry-inspection rules that will give plant operators the option of conducting their own inspections for bird defects and feces on the processing lines and allow government inspectors to concentrate on other food-safety issues in the plant.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the new rules were the most significant change in food-safety inspections in nearly 60 years. They “will increase the chances of us detecting problems by placing the burden of finding contaminates such as salmonella on the plants,” he said…

How gullible does that sound to you?

The department also announced that it would limit speeds on poultry plant lines to 140 birds per minute to protect workers from repetitive-stress injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome. The current average is about 130 birds a minute, officials said, but food-safety groups were worried because earlier proposals indicated the limit would be significantly raised.

The increase is ruled OK because the plant owners wanted to make it even worse.

“The one U.S.D.A. inspector left on the slaughter line under this new rule will still have to inspect 2.33 birds every second — an impossible task that leaves consumers at risk,” Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, said in a statement.

“This is not a meaningful victory because there are not accompanying worker-safety regulations to deal with the musculoskeletal disorders and other work-related injuries that both the plant workers and U.S.D.A. inspectors suffer every day working in the poultry slaughter plants,” she added.

Just in case you thought there was some interest in our government to protect the public and meatpacking workers from crappy working conditions, crap-laced food and crap-filled food products – our Department of Agriculture provides a public service announcement letting us know we’re on our own more than ever.

My family stopped buying chicken from the brands that raise and kill poultry as part of a grubby, unsafe packing process that treats consumers with as little care as the birds they’re harvesting. Years ago. These new rules ain’t about to change that.

Egg titan and his son plead guilty in food poisoning and bribery charges

Father and son

A self-made titan in the egg industry, his son and the Iowa company they ran pleaded guilty Tuesday to federal food safety violations stemming from a nationwide salmonella outbreak that sickened thousands in 2010.

Austin “Jack” DeCoster and his son, Peter DeCoster, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce. U.S. District Judge Mark Bennett will later decide their sentences, which could be up to one year in jail, fines of $100,000 apiece and additional restitution for victims.

Their company, Quality Egg LLC, pleaded guilty to charges of bribing a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspector, selling misbranded food and introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce. The company has agreed to pay a $6.8 million fine — one of the largest ever related to food safety — under a plea deal that Bennett could accept or reject…

The salmonella outbreak prompted a recall of 550 million eggs by Quality Egg and another Iowa company that used its feed and chickens, and led to the collapse of the vast egg production empire that DeCoster built from modest beginnings in Maine. Federal investigators spent years scrutinizing its business practices in the aftermath, as the DeCosters gave up control of their egg production facilities in Iowa, Maine and Ohio and settled dozens of legal claims from those who were sickened…

The company admitted that former Quality Egg manager Tony Wasmund and another employee bribed a now-deceased USDA inspector on at least two occasions. Those bribes, including a $300 cash payment, were meant to influence the inspector to release pallets of eggs that had been retained for failing to meet federal standards because too many were cracked, dirty or leaking.

The company also admitted that, with Wasmund’s approval, it had a longstanding practice of putting false processing and expiration dates on labels to make eggs appear fresher than they were. That practice helped the company circumvent laws in California, Arizona and elsewhere that require eggs to be sold within 30 days of their processing dates.

Throw away the key!

Health Department decides where salmonella outbreak in Minneapolis came from – it was the guinea pig meat

A Minneapolis woman has been fined after tainted guinea pig meat serving at her market resulted in a mass salmonella outbreak, health officials said.

The Minnesota Department of Health issued a $1,000 citation Oct. 1 to Nieves Riera, owner of New York Plaza Produce. the citation says Riera obtained the guinea pigs and pork from sellers that aren’t approved for wholesale, and that Riera slaughtered the guinea pigs in the back of her shop in August prior to an Ecuadorian Independence Festival, creating a health hazard.

More than 80 people fell ill as a result of eating the guinea pig meat

Um, OK.

Salmonella link to spices making serious changes in farming

dried fruit, spices, Istanbul

Spices grown in the mist-shrouded Western Ghats here have fueled wars, fortunes and even the discovery of continents, and for thousands of years farmers harvested them in the same traditional ways. Until now.

Science has revealed what ancient kings and sultans never knew: instead of improving health, spices sometimes make people very sick, so Indian government officials are quietly pushing some of the most far-reaching changes ever in the way farmers here pick, dry and thresh their rich bounty.

The United States Food and Drug Administration will soon release a comprehensive analysis that pinpoints imported spices, found in just about every kitchen in the Western world, as a surprisingly potent source of salmonella poisoning.

In a study of more than 20,000 food shipments, the food agency found that nearly 7 percent of spice lots were contaminated with salmonella, twice the average of all other imported foods. Some 15 percent of coriander and 12 percent of oregano and basil shipments were contaminated, with high contamination levels also found in sesame seeds, curry powder and cumin. Four percent of black pepper shipments were contaminated…

Mexico and India had the highest share of contaminated spices. About 14 percent of the samples from Mexico contained salmonella, the study found, a result Mexican officials disputed.

India’s exports were the second-most contaminated, at approximately 9 percent, but India ships nearly four times the amount of spices to the United States that Mexico does, so its contamination problems are particularly worrisome, officials said. Nearly one-quarter of the spices, oils and food colorings used in the United States comes from India…

Westerners are particularly vulnerable to contaminated spices because pepper and other spices are added at the table, so bacterial hitchhikers are consumed live and unharmed. Bacteria do not survive high temperatures, so contaminated spices present fewer problems when added during cooking, as is typical in the cuisine of India and most other Asian countries.

…Sophisticated DNA sequencing of salmonella types is finally allowing food officials to pinpoint spices as a cause of repeated outbreaks, including one in 2010 involving black and red pepper that sickened more than 250 people in 44 states. After a 2009 outbreak linked to white pepper, an inspection found that salmonella had colonized much of the Union City, Calif., spice processing facility at the heart of the outbreak…

One more example of how “tradition” often means unhealthy. Dedication to clean conditions during harvest and processing for market can make all the difference in the world to the safety of consumers – with no loss of flavor or function.

RTFA for lots of anecdotal info on the raising of many spices. Interesting stuff. You can never have too much knowledge about what you eat.

Would you like a deal on hamburger — from Cargill?

Nearly 15 tons of ground beef have been recalled by a unit of agriculture conglomerate Cargill in connection with a seven-state outbreak of salmonella across the northeast and Virginia, the United States Department of Agriculture said.

Cargill Meat Solutions, based in Wichita, Kansas, voluntarily recalled 29,339 pounds of fresh ground beef products produced at its Wyalusing, Pa., plant that may be contaminated with salmonella, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service announced late Sunday.

The products were produced on May 25, 2012, and shipped to distribution centers in Connecticut, Maine and New York. The recalled meat was sold in Hannaford supermarket stores in Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont, said the USDA.

Though the meat’s use-by date has passed and it is no longer sold at retail, the recall was made on concerns that some product may be frozen in consumers’ freezers, the USDA said…

Cargill said…”Food borne illnesses are unfortunate and we are sorry for anyone who became sick from eating ground beef we may have produced.”

See. Now, it’s all OK. Until the next time. Next month, next week?

These were 14-pound chubs of ground beef packed 3 to a case. That’s right. 42 pounds of ground crap colored red and carrying friendly microscopic critters inside. Generally, sold this way to folks who repackage it into smaller chubs all the way down to pre-formed hamburger patties.

If they remembered, they carried forward the same sell-by-date. They may be in the freezer of your refrigerator not looking at all like the torpedoes described by Cargill.

I buy ground beef from my local Whole Foods – who can tell me which ranch in Colorado the critter was roaming, last week. Probably the name of the cow.

Attack of the deadly turtles vs careless parents

Three outbreaks of Salmonella poisoning caused by exposure to tiny pet turtles have burgeoned into five outbreaks, with 124 people infected in 27 states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday.

Sixty-seven percent of those sick from the outbreak strains of Salmonella Sandiego, Salmonella Pomona and Salmonella Poona are children under 10. At least 19 people have been hospitalized…

The Food and Drug Administration banned the sale of turtles with shells smaller than 4 inches in 1975 because they’re disease vectors, especially for Salmonella. The turtles remain a popular street-vendor item, however. Like other reptiles treated as pets, as well as pet amphibians like frogs, the tiny turtles can carry Salmonella even if they appear to be healthy and clean.

People can become infected by handling the turtles or from exposure to anything in their tanks or aquariums.

Once again, we learn how thoroughly parents keep informed about products that can affect their children. Reading does help, folks. Not everything makes the news on local TV at 5PM.

Plus – we witness what a great job governments at all levels perform at managing the distribution and sale of dangerous goods. The street vendors got these little critters somewhere inside the United States. They didn’t magically appear in chain stores for resale.

Researchers find natural lantibiotic kills salmonella, e.coli, listeria

University of Minnesota researchers have discovered and received a patent for a naturally occurring lantibiotic — a peptide produced by a harmless bacteria — that could be added to food to kill harmful bacteria like salmonella, E. coli and listeria.

The U of M lantibiotic is the first natural preservative found to kill gram-negative bacteria, typically the harmful kind. “It’s aimed at protecting foods from a broad range of bugs that cause disease,” said Dan O’Sullivan, a professor of food science and nutrition in the university’s College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences. “Of the natural preservatives, it has a broader umbrella of bugs that it can protect against.”

The lantibiotic could be used to prevent harmful bacteria in meats, processed cheeses, egg and dairy products, canned foods, seafood, salad dressing, fermented beverages and many other foods. In addition to food safety benefits, lantibiotics are easy to digest, nontoxic, do not induce allergies and are difficult for dangerous bacteria to develop resistance against.

O’Sullivan discovered the lantibiotic by chance, while researching the genome of bacteria. He then collaborated with Ju-Hoon Lee, a U of M graduate student, to continue the research…

Salmonella and E. coli, both gram-negative bacteria, account for more than half of all food recalls in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, salmonella contributes to an estimated 28 percent of more than 3,000 deaths related to foodborne illness each year.

As an aside, this is one more example of collateral discoveries made in the course of basic research. Not as uncommon as journalists believe. This is part of the whole process requiring the broadest possible outlook, an open mind throughout any basic research.

It’s why there are researchers and scientists who spend their time searching out just such side roads – and taking the time and effort to develop and add them into the sum of human tools.

Cargill recalls 36+million pounds of ground turkey

More than 36 million pounds of fresh and frozen ground turkey are being voluntarily recalled by food giant Cargill because of the possibility of salmonella contamination.

Health authorities say the poultry could be contaminated with Salmonella Heidelberg, a strain of salmonella that killed a California man and caused the illness of 79 others.

Cargill said the ground turkey was produced at the company’s Springdale, Ark., facility between Feb. 20 and Aug. 2. Production at the plant has been suspended…

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said an investigation “determined that there is a link between the Cargill ground turkey products and the illness outbreak.” The recalled products have the number P-963 inside the USDA inspection mark.

“This is, if not the largest, one of the largest class-one food recalls to happen in U.S. history,” said William D. Marler, a Seattle attorney who specializes in food safety litigation. A class-one recall involves a health hazard that has a reasonable probability of causing health problems or death.

Over the last six months, local and state health department authorities in 26 states have reported dozens of cases of people falling ill after eating ground turkey. Salmonella Heidelberg is resistant to many commonly prescribed antibiotics and is often difficult to treat…

Salmonella can cause fever, diarrhea and abdominal pain. It can be fatal to young children, older people and those with compromised immune systems.

Cargill owns four turkey-processing facilities in the U.S., and no products from the other three are involved in the recall, the company said.

Well, golly gee – then they still might meet their production and profit targets. Let’s continue to live up to historic American standards.

It’s salmonella time for tomatoes!

A nice pasta primavera

A California firm has been notified that the grape tomatoes supplied for its salads may be contaminated with salmonella…

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said the prepackaged salads from Taylor Farms Pacific, Inc. of Tracy, Calif. were sold to Albertson’s, Raley’s, Safeway, Sam’s Club and Walmart.

The salads have “use by” dates of late April and early May and were distributed to stores in California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, New Mexico, Montana and Utah.

The suspect grape tomatoes were supplied to Taylor Farms Pacific by a California grower, Six L’s, the FDA said. No illnesses have been reported but Six L’s issued a voluntary recall of the tomatoes.

Questions about the recall? Contact the company directly at 209-835-6300.

Crap! One of my favorite items for a spring salad. I think I’ll stick to the organic varieties from the Mennonite farms down in Mexico.