“Peanut Corporation of America shipped peanut products from its plants to schools, nursing homes and food processors, even after getting lab tests showing salmonella contamination, [members of Congress told hearings today]. “
California Democratic Representative Henry Waxman displayed excerpts from internal company e-mails he said were from Parnell (the company’s president). "What they show is this company cared more about its financial bottom line than about the safety of its customers," Waxman said.
One e-mail said the problem was "costing us a huge (amount of) $$$$" while another said the company "desperately at least need to turn the raw peanuts on our floor into money."
Republican Representative Greg Walden held up a plastic jar filled with recalled products and asked Peanut Corporation of America President Stewart Parnell if he would like to sample them.
"Lives were lost and people were sickened because they took a chance, I believe knowingly, with products that were contaminated," Walden said in opening comments at a hearing of the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations..”
When offered the opportunity to publically eat some of Walden’s jar, the president of PCA ‘respectfully declined” – just like he ‘respectfully declined’ answering questions on the grounds that…well, you know…he pled the Fifth Amendment.
“Inspections showed the company had not only several tests that showed salmonella contamination but also cockroaches, a leaky roof and filthy equipment, the FDA has said.”
Mr. Peanut – oops, Mr. Parnell – if you have the nerve to ship out contaminated and infectious material that could even possibly kill, sicken or main people, then you should also suck it up and answer the questions put to you instead of hiding. Hundreds of people have become sick; 8 have died. And some of those sickened will have problems for the rest of their lives (Reiter’s Syndrome – painful, untreatable arthritis).
To get a grasp of what is at stake here with Salmonella, here is some material courtesy of the USDA; you will notice that the people most at risk to become sick or die from Salmonella poisoning are just the people who eat peanut butter and products made with peanut butter on a regular basis.
"Q. What is Salmonella?
A. Salmonella is a gram-negative, rod-shaped bacilli that can cause diarrheal illness in humans. They are microscopic living creatures that pass from the feces of people or animals to other people or other animals.
The Salmonella family includes over 2,300 serotypes of bacteria which are one-celled organisms too small to be seen without a microscope. Two types, Salmonella Enteritidis and Salmonella Typhimurium are the most common in the United States and account for half of all human infections. Strains that cause no symptoms in animals can make people sick, and vice versa. If present in food, it does not usually affect the taste, smell, or appearance of the food. The bacteria live in the intestinal tracts of infected animals and humans.
Salmonella bacteria have been known to cause illness for over 100 years. They were discovered by an American scientist, Dr. Daniel E. Salmon…
Q. What are the symptoms of salmonellosis?
A. Most people experience diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 8 to 72 hours after the contaminated food was eaten. Additional symptoms may be chills, headache, nausea, and vomiting. Symptoms usually disappear within 4 to 7 days. Many people with salmonellosis recover without treatment and may never see a doctor. However, Salmonella infections can be life-threatening especially for infants and young children, pregnant women and their unborn babies, and older adults, who are at a higher risk for foodborne illness, as are people with weakened immune systems (such as those with HIV/AIDS, cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, and transplant patients)."
This case is a two-pronged problem:
1) The FDA had inspected..but obviously had not done anything to shut down the plants until after the reports of deaths and illnesses.
2) The testing laboratory had done its job, but when you have management which takes the position that only ‘making sales’ and ‘collecting revenue’ count, then it was as if they had never sent the product to be tested in the first place.
One question I have is this: Why did the testing laboratory not report the results to the FDA? Or is this, like the contaminated honey problem, one where industry is expected to hold the consumers’ bests interests at heart and expected to act with obligation and responsibility?
As we see, private industry cannot be trusted to do anything with consumers’ health interests foremost in their minds. Another relic of the Bush years which will take probably decades to clean up. In the meantime, consumers continue to be placed at mortal risk.