Internal documents from the Peanut Corporation of America reportedly show that the company knew that peanut butter was contaminated with salmonella 12 times in the last two years, but shipped out the contaminated peanut butter to customers. The revelation will most certainly increase the liability facing the company from both the government and civil litigants after the death of eight people and the injury to hundreds across the country. Indeed, it would appear that criminal charges may now be warranted.
The Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which have been investigating company and found that over a dozen internal tests in 2007 and 2008 revealed contamination but that the company sold the peanut butter anyway.
The peanut butter was used to make crackers, cookies, energy bars, cereal, ice cream, candies and even dog biscuits. Investigators have also found the facility in Blakely, Ga., to be rife with four different strains of salmonella, including one found on the floor near a bathroom.
It would be astonishing if the company was not ruined from the expected litigation and, if true, someone needs to face criminal liability in the matter. The case also raises the question over the food safety inspection system and the fact that companies do not have to reveal such tests. The failure to notify federal and state officials of such contamination should be treated as a felony.
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