Wednesday, March 04, 2009


"Will tainted peanuts land anyone in jail?" asks the Atlanta Journal Constitution here.

That an article like this was even published in 2009 is remarkable. Two years ago, no one batted an eye when a number of American companies mowed down pets with melamine-contaminated food. And nothing happened a year later when Baxter International put a number of people to death with adulterated heparin furnished by producers in China.

"Former investigators said laws governing food adulteration date to the 1938 Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act," continued the newspaper. "The act defines adulterated product as food that was 'prepared, packed, or held under insanitary conditions whereby it may have become contaminated with filth, or whereby it may have been rendered injurious to health.'"

And that applies to Peanut Corporation of America.

"The provision offers two types of adulteration charges — misdemeanor and felony," the newspaper explained. "Intent defines the difference. A felony charge means the food was knowingly contaminated and put on the market anyway."

"I would be shocked if they indicted before the end of the year," one attorney told the newspaper.

This reflects the trend in food safety prosecutions, which have gone forward only slowly in the past. If they have gone forward at all.

Chemnutra, a company which is being investigated for its role in the contaminated pet food scandal, was indicted last year. However, the federal prosecutor who brought the case has since moved on to Wall Street lawyering and little seems to have transpired.

"“At this point nobody really cares about the corporation being prosecuted," the attorney consulted by the AJC said. "The question is individuals and then, which individuals?"

"At this point nobody really cares about the corporation being prosecuted."

Bloomberg news notes their has been a "philosophical shift" among giant food-processing companies. Heretofore, they'd all been strongly in the predator state camp, a position which requires they maintain they'll police themselves.

However, it is now easy to sense a populist sentiment in the country, a desire to hang big businesses which have been caught in various things causing either death, injury or general screwing-over of the public for the sake of their own enrichment.

"In a 'philosophical shift,' foodmakers support the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, said Scott Faber, vice president of federal affairs for the Washington-based Grocery Manufacturers Association," reported Bloomberg here.

"The companies want government to help prevent contamination in addition to detecting it..."

"What’s happening now is a question of survival," one professorial type told the news service. "The more the public becomes concerned about of all things their food supply, particularly for their children, the more there will be demand for regulation of the industry."

One short year ago, such companies -- which include Kellogg, Kraft (which has also seen its products tainted with melamine) and General Mills -- would have still lobbied against any regulation. Nothing changed, even when people were slain. It is fair to say the qualities (or lack of them) of the administration of George W. Bush made the practice of doing nothing fruitful for industry. But now the climate has shifted. Whether opportunity is seized and lasting change enacted is still, however, only theoretical.


Doing nothing and getting away with it as 'food safety' solutions.


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