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Should Someone Fry for Your Food? January 27, 2009

Posted by Kate Ryan in Crime and Punishment, Food Safety, Politics.
Tags: , , , , ,

formulaAccording to published reports, Zhang Yujun and Geng Jinping, former officials of the Sanlu Group,  have been sentenced to death by the Chinese government for their roles in the recent baby-milk scandal. Tian Wenhua, the former general manager and chairwoman of Sanlu Group Co., was given a life sentence.  The melamine-tainted formula killed at least six infants and sickened 300,000 more.  A total of 21 defendants were sentenced Thursday in connection with the case.

Though I do not support capital punishment, the actions of the Chinese government give me pause in light of the widening Salmonella outbreak linked to peanut butter in this country.  The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has received reports that seven people have died and over 500 people have fallen ill since the outbreak first began in early January.  Over 125 products containing peanut paste manufactured at the Peanut Corp. Plant in Blakely Georgia have been recalled.  In addition, Petsmart has had to yank a popular dog biscuit from its shelves because they contain the same paste.  The CDC and FDA expect more recalls to be announced as the investigation expands. 

Outbreaks of disease sometimes do just happen.  It appears, however, that this current outbreak was totally preventable.  Justicenewsflash.com is reporting today that Peanut Corp.’s Blakely, GA processing plant has been cited several times for health code violations.  In 2006 and 2007 inspectors noted dirty food preparation surfaces and walls as well as failure to clean and sanitize food contact surfaces.  The Atlanta Journal-Constitution   reports that the Georgia Department of Agriculture allowed Peanut Corp. to make “on-the-spot” corrections – but never followed up on them.  This further calls state oversight into question as Peanut Corp is the second plant in Georgia to be shut down for salmonella in 2 years.  In 2007, a ConAgra peanut butter plant in Sylvester, near Albany, was identified as the source of a salmonella outbreak that sickened hundreds of people across the United States.

I can’t see any difference between what Peanut Corp. executives and the Chinese executives did.  Both ignored health & safety reports in order to maximize their bottom lines.  Food safety costs money – and in a world where profit is valued above all, that money more often than not does not get spent.  The deliberate failure to fix sanitation concerns is a criminal act and it is time that someone be held criminally responsible. 

Tom Vilsak, the new Secretary of Agriculture, is looking into ways to improve food safety.  Hopefully, he will include tough standards and much harsher civil and criminal penalties.



1. Shelf Corp - January 29, 2009

With all these diseases so prevalent in our society, it makes me wonder if going out to eat at a restaurant is even worth it anymore.

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