evening doing a telephone survey of random persons in Alabama asking them if they (a) had diarrhea in the past six weeks and (b) if they had, what type of peanut products did they have in the house? It was all part of investigating the Killer Peanuts Salmonella Outbreak that hit a good-sized chunk of the country in 2009. Most people who suffered infection were lucky and experienced only a bad case of diarrhea, but at least 9 victims died. As the investigation progressed, it turned out that the company peddling the peanuts -- Peanut Corporation of America -- knew they had a problem with salmonella but kept selling their product anyway. Somewhat surprisingly, a criminal investigation followed.
Well, it's been six years -- the wheels of justice do move slowly -- but Stewart Parnell, the company's CEO, is staring at a possible life sentence. Two other executives with the company are looking at prison time, too, which would be nice. As a long piece at Natural News points out, the criminal case against Parnell and his co-defendants was the first of its kind. Usually when corporations engage in behavior that injures or kills people, no one in management is held personally responsible. Fines may be levied against the company, liability lawsuits may result in damages being paid to victims or their families, but the people at the top making the bad decisions emerge unscathed. They may lose their jobs, but they almost always have golden parachutes. Given the callous disregard for human life shown by Parnell and his minions, I'm hoping the judge doing the sentencing in September does follow the prosecutors' advice. It would, if nothing else, send a message to other executives that their bad decisions could result in more than just a generous severance package. A golden parachute wouldn't be much help in Leavenworth.