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How can this happen??

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Hudson_Hawk

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http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090211/ap_on_go_co/salmonella_outbreak

WASHINGTON – See the jar, the congressman challenged Stewart Parnell, holding up a container of the peanut seller''s products and asking if he''d dare eat them. Parnell pleaded the Fifth. The owner of the peanut company at the heart of the massive salmonella recall refused to answer the lawmaker''s questions — or any others — Wednesday about the bacteria-tainted products he defiantly told employees to ship to some 50 manufacturers of cookies, crackers and ice cream.

"Turn them loose," Parnell had told his plant manager in an internal e-mail disclosed at the House hearing. The e-mail referred to products that once were deemed contaminated but were cleared in a second test last year.

Summoned by congressional subpoena, the owner of Peanut Corp. of America repeatedly invoked his right not to incriminate himself at the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on the salmonella outbreak that has sickened some 600 people, may be linked to nine deaths — the latest reported in Ohio on Wednesday — and resulted in one of the largest product recalls of more than 1,900 items.

Parnell sat stiffly, his hands folded in his lap at the witness table, as Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., held up a clear jar of his company''s products wrapped in crime-scene tape and asked if he would eat them.

"Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, on advice of my counsel, I respectfully decline to answer your questions based on the protections afforded me under the U.S. Constitution," Parnell responded.

After he repeated the statement several times, lawmakers dismissed him from the hearing.

Shortly after Parnell''s appearance, a lab tester told the panel that the company discovered salmonella at its Blakely, Ga., plant as far back as 2006. Food and Drug Administration officials told lawmakers more federal inspections could have helped prevent the outbreak.

"We appear to have a total systemic breakdown," said Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., chairman of the committee''s investigations subcommittee.

Cookies, candy, crackers, granola bars and other products made with contaminated peanuts have been shipped to schools, stores and nursing homes, prompting the massive recall. The government raided the company''s Georgia plant on Monday, and Peanut Corp. closed its Plainview, Texas, facility.

A federal criminal investigation is under way.

The House panel released e-mails obtained by its investigators showing Parnell ordered products identified with salmonella to be shipped and quoting his complaints that tests discovering the contaminated food were "costing us huge $$$$$."

In mid-January, after the national outbreak was tied to his company, Parnell told Food and Drug Administration officials that he and his company "desperately at least need to turn the raw peanuts on our floor into money."

In a separate message to his employees, Parnell insisted that the outbreak did not start at his plant, calling that a misunderstanding by the media and public health officials. "No salmonella has been found anywhere else in our products, or in our plants, or in any unopened containers of our product," he said in a Jan. 12 e-mail.

In another exchange, Parnell complained to a worker after they notified him that salmonella had been found in more products.

"I go thru this about once a week," he wrote in a June 2008 e-mail. "I will hold my breath .......... again."

Last year, when a final lab test found salmonella, Parnell expressed concern about the cost and delays in moving his products.

"We need to discuss this," he wrote in an Oct. 6 e-mail to Sammy Lightsey, his plant manager. "The time lapse, beside the cost is costing us huge $$$$$ and causing obviously a huge lapse in time from the time we pick up peanuts until the time we can invoice."

Lightsey also invoked his right not to testify when he appeared alongside Parnell before the subcommittee.

"Their behavior is criminal, in my opinion. I want to see jail time," said Jeffrey Almer, whose 72-year-old mother died Dec. 21 in Minnesota of salmonella poisoning after eating Peanut Corp.''s peanut butter. Almer and other relatives of victims urged lawmakers to approve mandatory product recalls and improve public notice about contaminated food.

Darlene Cowart of JLA USA testing service said the company contacted her in November 2006 to help control salmonella discovered in the plant.

Cowart said she made one visit to the plant at the company''s request and pointed out problems with peanut roasting and storage of peanuts that could have led to the salmonella. She testified that Peanut Corp. officials said they believed the salmonella came from organic Chinese peanuts.

An FDA inspection report had placed the earliest presence of salmonella in June 2007, the first of a dozen times the company received private lab results identifying the bacteria in its products.

Cowart said she believed Peanut Corp. stopped using her company for lab tests because it identified salmonella too many times.

The company''s internal records show it "was more concerned with its bottom line than the safety of its customers," said committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif.

Charles Deibel, president of Deibel Laboratories Inc., said his company was among those that tested Peanut Corp. products and notified the Georgia plant that salmonella was found. Peanut Corp. sold the products anyway, according to an FDA inspection report.

"What is virtually unheard of is for an entity to disregard those results and place potentially contaminated products into the stream of commerce," Deibel said.

Deibel said he hopes the crisis leads to a greater role for FDA in overseeing food safety and providing more guidance to food makers.

________________________________________________________________________________________


"See the jar, the congressman challenged Stewart Parnell, holding up a container of the peanut seller''s products and asking if he''d dare eat them. Parnell pleaded the Fifth. "
Constitution or not, I can''t believe this guy didn''t have to answer for his actions when he was subpoenaed!! Argh! I hope criminal charges come out of this.

My stepsister developed meningitis from a salmonella infection during the Peter Pan salmonella outbreak a few years ago. This issue hits really close to home. She''s fine, but she has some nerve damage from it.
 

strmrdr

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Why didn''t the labs report it? And why are they not required to report it?
 

Rank Amateur

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I doubt you can pin it on the labs. I would think the company would bear the burden of reporting.

I have been in a lot of food plants. Most food plants are very careful about sanitation and are very clean.

Peanuts must offer a particular challenge given that they come out of the dirt. Maybe the fact that these plants were once small Mom and Pop or regional shops without the force of a big company mandating hygiene behind them contributed to the problem. In the end, like in so many other things, it was greed.
 

ksinger

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Just getting the heavy hand of unreasonable regulation off of business. Let to its own devices, business and the market will take care of itself. Business can be relied on to do what''s best if we just get the heavy hand of government off their backs.



I wonder how many times the magic hand of "the market" is going to have to give us all the finger before we figure it out.
 

Madam Bijoux

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How can this happen?
greed
ego-tripping CEO'S
failure to see the big picture
employees who probably knew it was going on but were afraid to blow the whistle

(Basically the same things that sank the Titanic in 1912 and the U S economy these days)
 

ksinger

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I don''t see the big problem. As in most instances, it''s a simple case of buyer beware, right? I mean, where do we get off thinking that we shouldn''t have to be wary of our food?
 

sklingem

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Date: 2/12/2009 6:52:12 AM
Author: ksinger
Just getting the heavy hand of unreasonable regulation off of business. Let to its own devices, business and the market will take care of itself. Business can be relied on to do what''s best if we just get the heavy hand of government off their backs.
See Ksinger - this is what happens when we take bonuses away from execs at companies. They are not motivated anymore to make their products safe. We only have ourselves (and Obama) to blame.
 

sklingem

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Date: 2/12/2009 6:52:12 AM
Author: ksinger
Just getting the heavy hand of unreasonable regulation off of business. Let to its own devices, business and the market will take care of itself. Business can be relied on to do what''s best if we just get the heavy hand of government off their backs.
See Ksinger - this is what happens when we take bonuses away from execs at companies. They are not motivated anymore to make their products safe. We only have ourselves (and Obama) to blame.
 

Hudson_Hawk

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I''m not so much concerned about greed, etc., and perhaps the title of "How Does This Happen" is not an accurate description of my feelings. I''m not surprised by the greed, I''m surprised that someone could willingly allow this to happen with no concern or compassion for the people who would eat it. It seems to me like the monetary potential of an act like this would be extremely short-lived. People were going to find out about it at some point and the paper trail leads right back to the owner. So a moment (or several months) of greedy acts lead to the loss of life and the obvious future collapse of this company and this owner''s finances. I hope they press charges. I don''t know how they couldn''t as this goes way beyond general negligence.
 

Diamond*Dana

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Date: 2/12/2009 8:16:08 AM
Author: Madam Bijoux
How can this happen?
greed
ego-tripping CEO''S
failure to see the big picture
employees who probably knew it was going on but were afraid to blow the whistle

(Basically the same things that sank the Titanic in 1912 and the U S economy these days)
Agreed! It is so sad that these people put greed in front of safety & lives
 

swimmer

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Date: 2/12/2009 10:25:57 AM
Author: rob09
Date: 2/12/2009 6:52:12 AM

Author: ksinger

Just getting the heavy hand of unreasonable regulation off of business. Let to its own devices, business and the market will take care of itself. Business can be relied on to do what''s best if we just get the heavy hand of government off their backs.

See Ksinger - this is what happens when we take bonuses away from execs at companies. They are not motivated anymore to make their products safe. We only have ourselves (and Obama) to blame.
You commies, showing off your fancy book larnin''
 

HollyS

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How can what happen?

Contamination? Because profits are more important to that company than people.

Pleading the 5th? Happens all the time; and is not an unwise legal strategy. Incriminating oneself or one''s company won''t help you. So why you do it?

If they cared to begin with, they wouldn''t be in the hot seat. No point in showing false concern now. Just a smidge late for that. Three years too late.

They need to be shut down for good. And the owners, managers, everone involved, need significant punishments meted.
 

ksinger

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Well, while most in here is wringing their hands in melodramatic gloom at the evil and greed in the world, (wow - what a new thing THAT is), all I can think of is why was the FDA never modernized - in responsibilities and infrastructure and systems and the creation of punative TEETH - why was it, and is it, still so early-20th-century? Why have they got 1300 fewer employees - most of the losses in the ranks of inspectors - than they did 14 years ago? Why are they so incredibly underfunded?? No one even thinks to mention this as part of the problem - just like they didn't when we had the lead in the Chinese import toys - you got a lot of wailing and gnashing against the evil Chinese, but nary one case of outrage against the agency tasked to protect the American consumer. I can only assume that people are going on the idea that insuring the safety of our food supply is no longer a good thing for government to be involved in. Easier to wail agains the evil in the human heart than to DO something about protecting us from it. Hey, as long as we're not being blown up by terrorist incendiary devices, who cares if we all die from salmonella and ecoli? So I guess it is as I said: buyer beware.

Poor old Upton Sinclair - he aimed for the heart but hit the stomach. Maybe food safety was not his intent, but it was still a good thing. Unfortunately, it seems we've "gotten over" that now too.


http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/04/23/eveningnews/main2719464.shtml

http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/editorial_opinion/editorials/articles/2008/02/03/condition_critical_at_the_fda/
 

ksinger

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Date: 2/13/2009 6:33:32 AM
Author: ksinger
Well, while most in here is wringing their hands
I edited above to say "most" instead of everyone. Unfair generalization. My bad. AND it should say "most in here ARE". My coffee level was clearly not up to the required amount...
 
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