Businesses have a responsibility to provide safe products to their customers. Not only does a company face serious lawsuits if their products cause consumer injury, but company officials and employees can be charged with criminal offenses if it was proven that they knowingly provided dangerous or defective products to the public.
Peanut Corporation of America, based in south Georgia, was responsible for the deaths of nine consumers and the illnesses of hundreds more in a 2009 outbreak. Federal officials say that at least four of the company’s employees knew about the tainted peanuts and filthy plant conditions that led to one of the country’s biggest food-borne salmonella outbreaks that affected 42 states.
Now, four years later, four of the peanut plant’s personnel – the president, two managers, and a food broker – have been indicted for knowingly approving and covering up the shipment of bacteria-laden peanut products. Among the charges are fraud, conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and introduction of adulterated and/or misbranded food into interstate commerce.
Many of the victims who survived the serious illness are relieved to finally see some justice. Although settlements were awarded to the survivors and the families of those who died, some of the victims who still suffer from lasting symptoms, such as weakness and digestion problems, believe those responsible should be held accountable for knowingly causing illness and death from a dangerous product.
An attorney in the case says that with incidents like this, usually the company is fined. However, email evidence points to Peanut Corp.’s president instructing a manager to ship out the food despite tests showing contamination. Company employees also gave FDA inspectors wrong or misleading information during the outbreak. Seeing plant personnel face legal consequences for their actions may help to bring the victims and their families some closure.
Source: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, ” Four indicted in peanut deaths linked to Ga. plant,” Craig Schneider, Feb. 22, 2013