Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Company Put Profits over Safety in Tainted Peanut Scandal

Allegations that the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) willfully sold salmonella-contaminated peanuts that caused at least nine deaths and made over 600 people ill in 43 states continues to rock the entire food industry (Salmonella Outbreak Eases Way for Food Safety Reforms, Baltimore Sun, February 15, 2009). The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) notes that PCA owner, Stewart Parnell disregarded "at least 12 tests revealing salmonella in 2007 and 2008" and persisted in distributing peanut products in a quest to increase profits. A criminal investigation is underway into PCA's actions.

In the wake of this tragedy, food safety advocates are calling for reform of the FDA with one Connecticut congressperson calling for a new agency, Food Safety Administration to work proactively to prevent food contamination. Rep. Rosa DeLauro sponsored legislation for the Food Safety Modernization Act to mandate that "companies control health hazards in their operations and meet federal standards for removing contaminants and be subject to regular inspections, based on the "risk profile" of the food they produce." Also, the act would give government the ability to "seize unsafe products and order recalls."

Discussion Questions:
  1. Why would a company risk lives by distributing unsafe products? Are companies so desperate to make money in a downturned economy that they would do anything to increase profits? Didn't someone realize that continuing to distribute these dangerous products would ultimately cause the downfall of the company and related businesses?
  2. Despite additional government inspections and regulations, the consumer still must depend on the food industry to act responsibly and follow safe practices when processing their products. How can the food industry ensure that companies employ best practices when processing food?
  3. After reading this article from the Baltimore Sun, what other practices or regulations would you recommend to improve food safety?

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