The longest penalty for a food poisoning has recently been handed down in the USA. The former owner of a food business is now serving 28 years in prison for a food poisoning which caused the deaths of nine and illness of hundreds.
He is joined by his brother, who is serving 20 years and the Quality Control Manager of the plant involved, who was given five years.
The Peanut Corporation of America started business in 1977 and closed after a food poisoning in 2008-9 which also generated the one of the largest product recalls in history. It’s products were almost literally everywhere and had to be recalled due to Salmonella contamination.
The reason the two brothers were handed such long sentences for federal conspiracy was because it was found that they allowed Salmonella contaminated peanut products to be distributed from their plant.
Interestingly the Judge was lenient on the former owner, as the maximum potential sentence was 803 years. The case was not about the deaths or illnesses but the defrauding of customers.
The prosecution included emails in it’s case, which clearly showed that the owner knew that the products were contaminated and that it was to be despatched, as delays were expensive. An FDA inspection in February 2009 found a variety of contamination sources, including the processing areas being contaminated by a leaky roof.
This case is an important watershed in food poisoning history, not only because of the long sentence but as continuing proof that when we work in the food industry we are taking responsibility at all levels to ensure that the food we make, sell, display, transport or process is safe for consumption at all times.