Peanut Tycoon Refuses To Comment on Salmonella Outbreak

By Brendan Sherwood

Stewart Parnell, President of Peanut Corporation

Stewart Parnell, President of Peanut Corporation

You’ve probably heard about peanut products containing salmonella in recent months, causing sickness and death. What you may not know is that some of those cases could have easily been avoided.

A recent salmonella outbreak killed eight people and made 550 ill. The outbreak resulted from improper testing procedures at a Peanut Corporation plant in Georgia. Instead of destroying peanuts that tested positive for salmonella, the company sent the products to different labs until they tested negative, then sent them to consumers.

According to The Washington Post, Stewart Parnell, president of Peanut Corporation even complained about the delay caused by re-testing in an e-mail that said “the time lapse, besides the cost is costing us huge $$$.”

According to The New York Times, “despite more than 12 tests in 2007 and 2008 that showed salmonella contamination in his company’s products, Mr. Parnell wrote an e-mail message to company employees on Jan. 12 saying, ‘We have never found any salmonella at all.'”

Rep. Greg Walden holds up a jar of contaminated peanut products

Rep. Greg Walden holds up a jar of contaminated peanut products

Stewart Parnell appeared at a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on February 11. Despite being questioned by Congressmen and the families of some of those who died from salmonella in peanut products, Parnell declined to answer, repeatedly stating his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. After it was clear he would not answer any questions, he fled from the press for several blocks.

Eileen McDowell, a nurse practitioner at Marist College Health Services, said there have been no cases of salmonella on campus. She said that there have been 528 around the country since September 8 and only one case in Dutchess County.

This does not mean Health Services isn’t prepared, however. They received a notice from the Dutchess County Department of Health detailing what to do in case of a salmonella outbreak. The procedures include reporting the case to the Department of Health, using antibiotic therapy in some cases, and referring patients to a hospital.

According to the Dutchess County Department of Health’s health update, “salmonella infection involves diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12-72 hours after infection. Infection is usually diagnosed by culture of a stool sample. The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days. Although most people recover without treatment, severe infections may occur.”

For more information about salmonella and product recalls, visit the following websites:

http://www.fda.gov/oc/opacom/hottopics/salmonellatyph.html

http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella

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