February 26, 2017

ConAgra Grocery Pleads Guilty to Shipping Contaminated Peanut Butter

ConAgra Grocery Products LLC, a subsidiary of ConAgra Foods Incorporated, pled guilty yesterday to a criminal misdemeanor charge imposed over a massive Salmonella outbreak linked to its peanut butter in 2006. The Department of Justice announced the agreement on December 13, 2016. The company was ordered to pay an $8 million fine and a $3.2 million penalty, the largest fine ever paid in a food safety case. A plea agreement was filed last year in federal district court in the Middle District of Georgia. Senior U.S. District Court Judge W. Louis Sands accepted the guilty plea and imposed the sentence and fines. The company admitted in the plea agreement that it introduced contaminated Peter Pan and one product code of WalMart's Great Value peanut butter into interstate … [Read more...]

Pritzker Hageman Wins $7.55 Million Verdict for Child with HUS E. coli

On November 22, 2016, noted food safety attorney Fred Pritzker and his team won a $7.55 million verdict for a child who contracted an E. coli infection and developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) in 2013 after visiting Dehn's Pumpkins, a business in Dayton, Minnesota. A jury in Hennepin County, Minnesota returned the verdict in favor of the child, who suffered severe kidney damage. The supporting lawyers on this case were Brendan Flaherty and Lindsay Lien Rinholen. The 10 year old girl went to the farm with her parents on the weekend of October 12 - 13, 2013 and got sick a few days later. At least seven people were sickened in that particular E. coli O157:H7 outbreak. The Minnesota Department of Health linked the illnesses to cows that were in the animal attraction at the farm. At … [Read more...]

Owner of Oasis Cheese Sentenced to Prison

The owner of Oasis Brands, Inc., a Florida cheese company, was sentenced to 15 months in prison on November 15, 2016. Christian Rivas was sent to prison for distributing contaminated cheese that was associated with a Listeria monocytogenes outbreak in 2014 that sickened five people in four states. U.S. District Judge Robert N. Scola, Jr. sentenced Mr. Rivas with "the intent to defraud and mislead, delivered cheese processed and packed at the Oasis facility into interstate commerce that was “adulterated . . . in that it contained lysteria monocytogenes (“listeria”) a deleterious substance, which may render the food injurious to health." The outbreak investigation and whole genome sequencing of the Listeria monocytogenes isolated from the recalled Oasis quesito casero cheese found … [Read more...]

Harbor City Restaurant Closed by Indiana Court

The Harbor City Restaurant in Tippecanoe County, Indiana was closed by a court when the owner kept the restaurant open despite the health department's order to close. A county employee saw the owner, Peter Wang, loading food for delivery on July 7, 2016, two days after health inspectors closed the restaurant after an inspection July 5, 2016. That inspection revealed 21 critical food safety violations. Inspection reports for last year, which are available online, showed the restaurant has received repeated citations for critical violations, including cockroaches and maggots on the kitchen floor, blood and dry food on the shelf used to hang raw duck to drain after cleaning, and hazardous food maintained at too high a temperature. Other violations included a bucket with raw chicken … [Read more...]

FDA Updates Investigation of Roos Cheese Listeria Outbreak

The FDA has updated its investigation and criminal charges against Roos Foods Inc. in association with the Listeria monocytogenes outbreak linked to the company's cheeses. On Friday, January 22, 2016, the Department of Justice filed criminal information in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, charging the company with "the distribution of adulterated cheese in interstate commerce." The company has signed a plea agreement in which it has agreed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor violation of the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. Roos and its principals, Ana A. Roos and Virginia Mejia, agreed to a proposed consent decree of permanent injunction. A multistate outbreak of listeriosis linked to Hispanic-style cheese products made and distributed by Roos Foods of Kenton, … [Read more...]

Wyoming’s Ag-Gag Law Dealt Serious Blow

Food Poisoning Bulletin has been reporting about so-called "ag gag" laws for years. These laws are intended to prevent whistleblowers from reporting on animal abuse at factory farms, and levy penalties against those who go undercover to film problems at these facilities. A federal judge, last week, noted "serious concerns and questions" about the constitutionality of Wyoming's data trespass laws in an order released about a lawsuit against that state and refused to strike claims against the law. These laws criminalize undercover reporting on farms and in slaughterhouses that reveal animal abuse, food safety violations, and violations of food worker health and safety laws. Center for Food Safety and other groups have sued Wyoming over this law, claiming that the laws punish communication … [Read more...]

Crab Products Seized for Possible Listeria Monocytogenes Bacteria

The United States Department of Justice seized about 5,000 cases of frozen, processed crab products manufactured by Rome Packing Company because the seafood may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes bacteria. The government alleges that Rome prepared, packed, and processed Jonah Crab products in a facility contaminated with the pathogenic bacteria. According to court documents, the FDA inspected Rome's facility on six different occasions and found that the facility's cooking process did not adequately control temperatures to prevent bacterial growth. Environmental swab samples collected from three areas of the facility allegedly tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes bacteria. And poor sanitary practices and conditions in the facility may have caused cross-contamination … [Read more...]

Stewart Parnell Sentenced to 28 Years in Prison

Former Peanut Corporation of America executive 61-year-old Stewart Parnell has been sentenced to 28 years in prison after being convicted of multiple felonies related to a deadly nationwide Salmonella outbreak. His brother, Michael Parnell, was sentenced to 20 years in prison. That outbreak killed nine people and sickened at least 714 others in 46 states and Canada. This is the most serious punishment given to a food producer in a foodborne outbreak case. Parnell was convicted of knowingly shipping contaminated product and of falsifying records and lab reports on his products. Most corporations are hit with civil lawsuits after food poisoning outbreaks. Parnell apologized to those sickened in the outbreak and to the families of those killed. Parnell did face up to 803 years in prison … [Read more...]

Revisiting the Peanut Corporation of American Salmonella Outbreak

Three executives of the former Peanut Corporation of America are to be sentenced this week for illnesses and deaths in the huge Salmonella outbreak in 2008-2009 linked to their peanut butter products. Stewart Parnell was convicted of 68 felony counts, including "conscious or reckless risk of death or serious bodily injury", conspiracy to engage in mail and wire fraud, and introduction of adulterated and misbranded food into interstate commerce with intent to defraud or mislead. His brother Michael Parnell was convicted of 30 felony counts, and Mary Wilkerson, plant manager, was found guilty of obstruction of justice. Both brothers could go to prison for the rest of their lives on these convictions, and will be sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge W. Louis Sands. That deadly … [Read more...]

North Carolina Seafood Processor Sentenced

Alphin Brothers Inc.,a seafood processor and wholesale distributor in North Carolina, was sentenced this month in federal court for falsely labeling imported shrimp. An employee purchased shrimp on the company's behalf and directed employees to falsely label farm-raised imported shrimp as a wild-caught product of the U.S. This mislabeled product was sold by Alphin Brothers to customers in Louisiana through interstate commerce. The facility was ordered to pay a criminal fine of $100,000 and to forfeit about 21,450 pounds of shrimp. The company will also serve three years of probation. And they must implement a training program to educate employees on federal labeling requirements and laws. Those federal laws require seafood retailers to provide consumers notice of the country of … [Read more...]

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