Rotten peanuts

Posted in Bioterrorism, Predator State at 10:03 am by George Smith

The wheels of justice grind slowly.

The Bush administration spent a great deal of time in office building up homeland security defenses against mostly-imagined threats in biological and chemical terrorism.

On the domestic side it did all it could to destroy food safety by getting rid of regulators.

The years of the Bush presidency could be characterized in many ways, all bad, one being the recurring feature of a surprising number off mass illnesses caused by contamination in food products.

For example, the killing of a large number of beloved pets by mass distribution of melamine as an adulterant in their food.

In this climate, the Peanut Corporation of American, run by Stewart Parnell, caused one of the biggest outbreaks of salmonellosis in the country’s history. The outbreak killed nine people and sickened hundreds.

By contrast, anthrax bioterrorist Bruce Ivins killed five and made 17 others very ill.

From AP today:

A federal grand jury indicted four former employees of a peanut company linked to a 2009 salmonella outbreak that killed nine people and sickened hundreds, leading to one of the largest recalls in history.

The 76-count indictment was unsealed Wednesday in federal court in Georgia. It charged the former employees of Virginia-based Peanut Corp. of America with conspiracy, wire fraud, obstruction of justice and others offenses related to contaminated or misbranded food.

Named in the indictment were company owner Stewart Parnell, his brother and company vice president Michael Parnell, Georgia plant manager Samuel Lightsey and Georgia plant quality assurance manager Mary Wilkerson.

FDA inspectors found remarkably bad conditions inside Parnell’s processing plant in Blakely, Ga., including mold and roaches, and the company went bankrupt after the recall …

Stewart Parnell, who invoked the Fifth Amendment to avoid testifying before Congress in February 2009, once directed employees to “turn them loose” after samples of peanuts had tested positive for salmonella and then were cleared in a second test, according to e-mail uncovered at the time by congressional investigators.

The indictment cited emails sent between defendants talking about contamination in the product.

Stewart Parnell was subsequently eclipsed by Austin ‘Jack’ Decoster, an Iowa egg farmer with a history of violations who caused the biggest recall of eggs in US history when his products delivered Salmonella enteriditis in 2010.

Decoster’s egg farms were directly responsible for sickening 1,500 — 2,000, or more, and the recall of almost 400 million eggs.

DD blog covered some it in the series puckishly entitled Eat Shit Farms, here.

Decoster was subsequently dragged in front of Congress by the pathetic ex-Democratic Party Congressman, Bart Stupak, for a grilling when the latter was chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee.

Good times, good times. Beware bioterrorism!

Trivia note: Bart Stupak became momentarily famous for trying to attach an anti-abortion amendment to the Affordable Care Act. He subsequently declined to run again, apparently frazzled by the enmity directed at him from women’s reproductive rights organizations. Stupak is now a lobbyist.

Stewart Parnell and Peanut Corp. — from the archives.

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