July 21, 2018

Fred Pritzker Reacts to PCA Indictments

The U.S. Department of Justice issued indictments against several officials of the Peanut Corporation of America today. That facility was linked to a 2009 Salmonella outbreak that sickened more than 700 people in this country and killed nine.

Gavel“The decision to prosecute Peanut Corporation of America officers and employees responsible for the deadly Salmonella outbreak in 2009 is an important and long overdue step towards improving food safety in the United States,” according to Fred Pritzker, president of the national food safety law firm, Pritzker Olsen, who represented several of the injury and death victims harmed by PCA products.

“My clients are ecstatic that the wrongdoers responsible for this food safety debacle are finally going to be held accountable by the criminal justice system for the harms and losses they caused,” Pritzker said.

In a timely and unique collaboration between the bankruptcy trustee, PCA’s insurers, defense attorneys for corporations that used PCA products and a few lawyers representing most of the people harmed by those products, the civil claims were resolved many months ago, according to Pritzker. However, and as is the case with most outbreaks, the actual wrongdoers were not required to pay anything out of their own pockets and faced no criminal responsibility – until now.

“This was an egregious case. It cried out for criminal prosecution. If it wasn’t prosecuted, it would be hard to imagine one that would be,” Pritzker commented. “This prosecution sends the right message to food producers: you need to take personal responsibility for the products you sell. You need to worry about a lot more than your company’s bottom line.”

“Notwithstanding this good news, I have a few concerns. First, it took an awfully long time for this indictment to be issued. I understand that food safety conspiracy cases are more complex than a typical criminal case, but a 4 year delay seems excessive. Second, the conduct of the wrongdoers was well documented and obvious. I would hate to see use of the criminal justice reserved for only the most blatant cases. Third, some of the victims from this outbreak died and others suffered serious injury yet the case was charged out essentially as a white collar criminal case. It could certainly be argued that even more serious charges were warranted,” Pritzker said.

 

Comments

  1. Yes, this is WAY overdue. I assumed they were already in prison! If the people only knew what inspectors find in some food inspections, there would be a revolt demanding more prosecutions in this arena of food production and retail handling of those foods. Food safety lawyers need to push for greater access to these inspection records. Inspection info stuck in a file is not doing anyone any good. Meat industry is the favorite food punching bag, but there are much more dangerous foods out there than meat, and we have seen many examples of that fact in recent years.

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