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The Ugly Side of Food


Touch the Soil News #188

Today, for the first time in history, executives of a food manufacturing company were sentenced to jail. Their crime, as executives of Peanut Corporation of America, was in knowingly selling to food processing manufacturers peanuts that were tainted with Salmonella. During 2008 and 2009, 20,000 people were sickened in 46 states and 9 people died as a result of the tainted peanuts.

U.S. District Court Judge, W. Louis Sands, sentenced Stewart Parnell and Michael Parnell – the two top executives of Peanut Corporation of America – to 28 years and 20 years in prison respectively. Mary Wilkerson, in her role as quality control manager, was sentenced to 5 years in prison.


This sentencing is sending shock waves through the board rooms of food handling, processing and manufacturing companies. So why should food executives take note of this conviction of two men and a women who knowingly sold tainted food to the public? Consider the following statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control on the state of foodborne illnesses in America:


  1. Every year roughly 1 in six American’s gets sick. That today totals 54 million people. This is equivalent to 6, 164 people getting sick every hour from tainted food. It means that over the course of 6 years, 100 percent of Americans are at risk of getting sick from tainted food.
  2. Every year, 128,000 Americans get so sick from food borne illnesses so as to be hospitalized. This is equivalent to 15 people being hospitalized for eating tainted food every hour.
  3. Every year, 3,000 Americans die from food borne illnesses. That is 8 people die every day from eating food that is tainted.


There are about 500 major outbreaks of food that is tainted. Outbreaks often claim the lives of people and sicken hundreds or thousands of people. Because the food chain has become so concentrated in the hands of large corporations, a tainted food can be spread to many states in a matter of days. How many food executives are aware of unsanitary practices in their companies that could make them liable for a food borne illness outbreak?

Following is a Fox News special on the Parnell sentencing and the issues.

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