Justice Dept.: Food Companies Risk Prosecution for Outbreaks – Following a deadly listeria outbreak in ice cream, the Justice Department is warning food companies that they could face criminal and civil penalties if they poison their customers.
Associate Attorney General Stuart Delery said “We have made a priority holding individuals and companies responsible when they fail to live up to their obligations that they have to protect the safety of the food that all of us eat.”
After years of relative inactivity, the administration has stepped up criminal enforcement on safety cases. Delery wouldn’t say whether the government plans to pursue charges against Texas-based Blue Bell Creameries, which recalled all its products and shut down production earlier this year after listeria in the company’s ice cream was linked to illnesses and three deaths. But he did say that the department is following all reports and working with its partners and evaluating cases as needed.
The Justice Department prosecuted many companies in recent years for selling contaminated products, including a company that sold listeria-tainted cantaloupe that killed more than 30 people in 2011; an Iowa egg company for selling salmonella-tainted eggs that sickened almost 2,000 people in 2010, and settled with ConAgra Foods for $11.2 million after the company shipped Peter Pan peanut butter tainted with salmonella from a plant in Georgia.
Delery spoke to food manufacturers at a safety meeting in Dallas recently and said that while most American food is safe, even a small amount that’s not can cause a lot of harm.