Prison Sentences- Peanut Corp.of America Salmonella Tainted Peanut Products

Update-Sentences Affirmed on January 23, 2018 Corp. Executive Liability Sentence Largest Ever in Food Safety History 

AFFIRMED:  See: United States v. Parnell, et. al, No. 15-14400 (11th Cir. Jan. 23, 2018)  Click on the link for the appellate court decision. Court of Appeals Opinion

Former Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) President and Owner Stewart Parnell received a criminal prison sentence of 28 years in connection with the 2009 salmonella poisoning outbreak of 700 reported cases in 46 states. Expert evidence presented at trial detailed that there were nine deaths linked to PCAs tainted products. Parnell’s brother Michael received a 20 year prison sentence. The Quality Assurance employee received a 5 year sentence. They were sentenced based on their roles at PCA by shipping salmonella-positive peanut products and by falsifying microbiological test results.  A federal jury convicted the Parnell brothers in September 2014 on several counts of conspiracy, mail and wire fraud as well as selling misbranded food. Stewart Parnell was also convicted for introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce.  Stewart Parnell and Quality Assurance Manager Mary Wilkerson were also convicted of obstruction of justice. According to U. S. Justice Attorney Moore, “The sentence that was handed down today [Sept. 21, 2015] means that executives will no longer be able to hide behind the corporate veil”. The direct link to the sentences in the Parnell Salmonella Tainted Peanut Product case is below and court of appeals opinion above.

AFFIRMED:  See: United States v. Parnell, et. al, No. 15-14400 (11th Cir. Jan. 23, 2018 (affirmed)). Click on the link Court of Appeals Opinion

http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/former-peanut-company-president-receives-largest-criminal-sentence-food-safety-case-two

Top 5 Accomplishments— FDA Year in Review and Wish List!

Year in Review—Top 5 (well more than 5) Highlights of FDA Accomplishments and FTC in 2014.  Here are just a few top accomplishments in food and drug law in 2014. Last year, the question posed was whether the United States really needs an “FDA”. The role and mission of FDA has been debated for years.  The FDA role ranges from that of a regulator, watchdog and facilitator. Commentary ranges from overbearing federal regulation to lack of public protection. Yet, based on these selected accomplishments, FDA provides an important function in keeping with the mission of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and the numerous amendments. Although the FDA has across the board accomplishments, the following are standouts and all involve safety—Ebola, Power Morcellators,  Food Safety Modernization Act Supplemental Proposed Rules, Tobacco Enforcement, Calorie Disclosure Rules, Criminal Liability, Sunscreen Innovation Act and Diet Products….just to name a few. 

CAFFEINE-INFUSED SHAPEWEAR

Norm Thompson Outfitters and Wacoal America Settle FTC Charges Over Weight-Loss Claims The Federal Trade Commission approved two final orders settling charges that two companies, Norm Thompson Outfitters. Inc., and Wacoal America, Inc., misled consumers regarding the ability of their caffeine-infused shapewear undergarments to reshape the wearer’s body and reduce cellulite. According to the FTC’s complaints, the two companies’ marketing claims for their caffeine-infused products were false and not substantiated by scientific evidence. The products, made with Lytess brand fabrics, were sold via mail order and on the company’s Norm Thompson Outfitters, Sahalie, Body Solutions, and Body Belle websites. FTC alleged that the company made claims that wearing its shapewear would eliminate or substantially reduce cellulite; reduce the wearer’s hip measurements by up to two inches and their thigh measurements by one inch; and reduce thigh and hip measurements “without any effort.” The complaint against Wacoal America contained similar allegations. It charged that the company’s iPants supposedly slimmed the body and reduced cellulite. Specifically, the company made false and unsubstantiated claims that wearing iPants would: substantially reduce cellulite; cause a substantial reduction in the wearer’s thigh measurements; and destroy fat cells, resulting in substantial slimming. http://www.ftc.gov/enforcement/cases-proceedings/132-3095/wacoal-america-inc-matter

EBOLA OUTBREAK 

Currently, the standard treatment for patients infected with the Ebola virus is supportive therapy. However, that could change in the near future. NIH reported in late 2014 that an experimental vaccine to prevent Ebola virus disease proved successful in phase I clinical trial in all 20 healthy adults who received it. The vaccine is being developed by the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and GlaxoSmithKline. Expedited review is in the works for the priority review track as well as immunity protection.The experimental drug ZMapp was used in 2014 to treat a few patients infected with Ebola; however, it is still uncertain to ascertain the effectiveness of ZMapp. According to the manufacturer, the product is in the experimental stages and clinical trials are needed. Besides Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc., Tekmira, Chimerix and BioCryst Pharmaceuticals have therapeutic products in early developmental stages for clinical trials. See: Peter Loftus and Betsy McKay, Race is On for Ebola Drug, All St. J. A1 (Oct. 18-19 2014); Betsy McKay and Peter Loftus, Wall St. J. A7 Experimental Drugs Are Approved for Use in Fighting Ebola in West Africa (Aug. 13, 2014);http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/outbreaks/guinea/qa-experimental-treatments.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/07/business/an-obscure-biotech-firm-hurries-ebola-treatment.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2014/08/06/ebola-research-ethics-and-the-zmapp-serum/

POWER MORCELLATORS—Warning and Immediate Guidance

Laparoscopic Uterine Power Morcellation: Immediately in Effect Guidance Document: Product Labeling for Laparoscopic Power Morcellators; Guidance for Industry and Food and Drug Administration Staff  http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2014-11-25/html/2014-27857.htm?source=govdelivery&utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery

Laparoscopic Uterine Power Morcellation in Hysterectomy and Myomectomy: FDA Safety Communication http://www.fda.gov/MedicalDevices/Safety/AlertsandNotices/ucm424443.htm

CRIMINAL FELONY CONVICTIONS 

Corporate Executive Liability Food Safety—Felony Conviction Peanut Corporation of America Background and Corporate Significance The former owner of Peanut Corporation of America Peanut Corp.) Stewart Parnell was convicted on September 19, 2014 of conspiracy and other charges in connection with a deadly salmonella outbreak that occurred in 2008-2009. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nine people died and over 700 others became ill in 2008-09 after eating peanut butter or other products prepared at the company’s plant in Georgia. Mr. Parnell, was found guilty on several counts, including wire fraud and obstruction of justice. The indictment was centered on a conspiracy to conceal that several of Peanut Corp.’s products were contaminated with salmonella. Others involved and convicted included the brother of Stewart Parnell, Michael Parnell, a food broker who worked on behalf of Peanut Corp. and the quality assurance manager, Mary Wilkerson, for obstruction of justice. Two other former Peanut Corp. employees has previously pled guilty to multiple charges. Prosecutors alleged that Peanut Corp. not only defrauded customers but also defrauded several national food companies by failing to inform them about the presence of food-borne pathogens in laboratory tests, including salmonella. According to prosecutors, in some instances, despite these results, Peanut Corp. officials totally falsified lab results, maintaining peanut products were safe for consumption. Further, at times, the Peanut Corp. failed to even perform testing. Although for years, corporate executives have been charged with misdemeanor offenses under the strict criminal liability theory known as the Park doctrine, this case is distinguishable. The Peanut Corp. case represents a felony prosecution under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. The Peanut Corp. prosecution serves as a wake up call to the regulated food safety industry.

CALORIE DISCLOSURE FINAL RULES

Vending Machines and Restaurant Menu Labeling Overview and link to final rules. http://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/LabelingNutrition/ucm248732.htm

Introduction and Quick Summary FDA released the long awaited two final rules in early December (2014) regarding caloric disclosure The rules were proposed in April 2011 under section 4205 of the Affordable Care Act. The final rule is effective date is December 1, 2015 to afford vending machine operators and affected restaurants time to comply. The final rule summaries issued by FDA are below as well as a direct link and issue to consider.  Food Labeling; Calorie Labeling of Articles of Food in Vending Machines Requires operators who own or operate 20 or more vending machines to disclose calorie information for food sold from vending machines, subject to certain exemption.   

Food Labeling; Nutrition Labeling of Standard Menu Items in Restaurants and Similar Retail Food Establishments Applies to restaurants and similar retail food establishments if they are part of a chain of 20 or more locations, doing business under the same name, offering for sale substantially the same menu items and offering for sale restaurant-type foods.

TOBACCO ENFORCMENT 

 Tobacco products are regulated so differently than other FDA regulated products due to the fact they are harmful yet still extensively used consumer products and are responsible for severe health problems in both users and non-users, including cancer, lung disease, and heart disease, which often lead to death. The focus remains on youth and the FDA is faced for 2015 with the Ecigarette issue and deeming. CTP established the Office of Compliance and Enforcement (OCE); however, enforcement is limited as FDA’s regulatory authority is dictated by the FSPTCP. CTP has filed actions for civil monetary penalties mainly for sales to minors. A Civil Money Penalty (CMP) Complaint is used to initiate an administrative legal action against a retailer that can result in the imposition of a fine, termed a Civil Money Penalty. As an example of enforcement efforts, FDA filed approximately 100 civil legal actions. FDA recently sent warning letters to retailers for selling to minors. Here is the direct link:

http://www.fda.gov/ICECI/EnforcementActions/WarningLetters/Tobacco/ucm424581.htm

FOOD SAFETY

Food Safety Modernization Act Supplemental Proposed Rules: Did you know that much of the food that Americans consume originate from countries outside of the United States? The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), signed into law back in January 2011, addresses imported food as well as food produced in the United States. Several proposed rules were issued in 2013 and now in 2014 supplemental proposed rules. Here is the direct link to the final and proposed rules.

http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/FSMA/ucm253380.htm

SUNSCREEN INNOVATION ACT

Finally, the Sunscreen Innovation Act (SIA), recently signed into law in late 2014, (Public Law No: 113-195 Nov. 26, 2014) establishes a new process for the review and approval of over-the-counter sunscreen active ingredients. The SIA provides FDA with explicit, expedited deadlines for review. The SIA is a major improvement as for example some sunscreen ingredients have been under review for over ten years. Direct Link to SIA is as follows: https://www.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/senate-bill/2141/text

WISH LISTS

FDA WISH LIST—Congressional Authorization of more resources, i.e. MONEY so FDA can effectively fulfill the mission of the FDCA. 

STAKEHOLDER WISH LIST—More Clarity from FDA!

RECOMMENDATIONS—FDA and the FTC did have major accomplishments as the above examples illustrate. They illustrate the necessity for “an FDA” as well as an “FTC”. Hopefully though the proposed rules will be finalized in 2015 and hopefully Congress will revisit FDA regulatory authority for some products such as dietary supplements where FDA can only legally exercise post-enforcement. Stay tuned for more about the role of FDA and for more food and drug law updates in 2015.

Corporate Accountability Food Safety Felony Conviction

Corporate Executive Liability Food Safety—Felony Conviction

Peanut Corporation of America Background

The former owner of Peanut Corporation of America Peanut Corp.) Stewart Parnell was convicted on September 19, 2014 of conspiracy and other charges in connection with a deadly salmonella outbreak that occurred in 2008-2009. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nine people died and over 700 others became ill in 2008-09 after eating peanut butter or other products prepared at the company’s plant in Georgia. Mr. Parnell, was found guilty on several counts, including wire fraud and obstruction of justice. The indictment was centered on a conspiracy to conceal that several of Peanut Corp.’s products were contaminated with salmonella. Others involved and convicted included the brother of Stewart Parnell, Michael Parnell, a food broker who worked on behalf of Peanut Corp. and the quality assurance manager, Mary Wilkerson, for obstruction of justice. Two other former Peanut Corp. employees has previously pled guilty to multiple charges.

Prosecutors alleged that Peanut Corp. not only defrauded customers but also defrauded several national food companies by failing to inform them about the presence of food-borne pathogens in laboratory tests, including salmonella. According to prosecutors, in some instances, despite these results, Peanut Corp. officials totally falsified lab results, maintaining peanut products were safe for consumption. Further, at times, the Peanut Corp. failed to even perform testing.

Corporate Liability Significance

Although for years, corporate executives have been charged with misdemeanor offenses under the strict criminal liability theory known as the Park doctrine, this case is distinguishable. The Peanut Corp. case represents a felony prosecution under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. The Peanut Corp. prosecution serves as a wake up call to the regulated food safety industry.

Outcome and Sentencing

Peanut Corp. filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection weeks after the outbreak began. The felony convictions mean the possibility of a extensive prison sentence and fines.

Top 5 Highlights of FDA Accomplishments in 2013—Snapshot Year in Review: Why the United States Needs a Food and Drug Administration.

Does the United States Needs a Food and Drug Administration? Year in Review—Top 5 Highlights of FDA Accomplishments in 2013

Does the United States even need a Food and Drug Administration (FDA)? The role and mission of FDA has been debated for years.  The FDA role ranges from that of a regulator, watchdog and facilitator. Commentary ranges from overbearing federal regulation to lack of public protection. Yet, based on these selected accomplishments, FDA provides an important function in keeping with the mission of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and the numerous amendments. Although the FDA has across the board accomplishments, the following are standouts and all involve safety—Food Safety Modernization, Drug Quality and Security, Tobacco Products, Antibiotic-Antimicrobials Use in Food Producing Animals and Dietary Supplement Enforcement.

DRUG SAFETY—DRUG QUALITY and SECURITY ACT

This necessary and milestone legislation (H.R. 3204) enacted towards the end of 2013, addresses federal regulatory authority over pharmacy compounding. Unfortunately, this legislation was enacted in response to the unnecessary deaths associated with large scale compounding. Additionally, this law contains “track and trace” provisions throughout the drug supply chain.

DIETARY SUPPLEMENT OVERSIGHT

Dimethylamylamine DMAA—Muscle Building and Performance Enhancement

Dimethylamylamine commonly known as (DMAA) provides an excellent illustration example of issues related to post-market enforcement. DMAA, a stimulant is used in supplements, promotes weight loss, muscle building and performance enhancement.  DMAA, a stimulant is used in supplements, promotes weight loss, muscle building and performance enhancement.  According to FDA, medical issues associated with DMAA include elevated blood pressure, potential cardiovascular problems such as heart attack, shortness of breath and tightening of the chest.

The following link contains the FDA warning letters. http://www.fda.gov/Food/DietarySupplements/QADietarySupplements/ucm346576.htm

The following link contains the response letter from FDA to USPlabs. http://1.usa.gov/1lcJC77

ANTIMICROBIAL RESISTENCE  

At the end of 2013, FDA issued a guidance and proposed rule about a phase out of antimicrobial drugs in food animals for food production purposes. According to FDA, the agency issued voluntary guidance that promotes the judicious use of antibiotics in food animal production is preferable because of resource limitations; that is, according to FDA, the agency would use fewer resources compared to withdrawing the animal drugs on an individual basis

VETERINARY ACTION—ANTIMICROBIAL VOLUNTARY PHASE OUT

Final Guidance and Proposed Rulemaking Rx Status

http://1.usa.gov/1bHsi92

TOBACCO PRODUCTS REGULATION

Tobacco Product Marketing Orders

http://1.usa.gov/1kCu7aV

Tobacco products are regulated so differently than other FDA regulated products due to the fact they are: harmful yet still extensively used consumer products; and responsible for severe health problems in both users and non-users, including cancer, lung disease, and heart disease, which often lead to death. A company who desires to market a new tobacco product has the following options available.

There were 17 SE orders, 13, NSE orders and 162 Report Withdrawals from pre-June 2013-December. http://www.fda.gov/TobaccoProducts/Labeling/MarketingandAdvertising/ucm339928.htm

MODERNIZING FOOD SAFETY

Did you know that much of the food that Americans consume originate from countries outside of the United States? The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), signed into law back in January 2011, addresses imported food as well as food produced in the United States.  Major accomplishments include a final rule and five proposed rules.

Final Rule Administrative Detention of Food 
 Criteria Used to Order Administrative Detention of Food for Human or Animal Consumption which amended the criteria for administrative detention to prevent potentially unsafe food from reaching the marketplace.  A guidance was issued as well titled: Guidance For Industry on Administrative Detention
  was issued on March 7, 2013 FDA released revised guidance on administrative detention entitled “Guidance for Industry: What You Need to Know About Administrative Detention of Foods; Small Entity Compliance Guide.”

5 Proposed Food Safety Rules: Preventive Controls; Produce Safety; Foreign Supplier Verification, Third Party Accreditation and Intentional Adulteration Mitigation Strategies.

1. Proposed Rule: Preventive Controls for Human Food The proposed rule issued January 2013 would implement the requirements of FSMA for covered facilities to establish and implement a food safety system that includes a hazard analysis and risk-based preventive controls.

http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=FDA-2011-N-0920-0001

2. Proposed Rule: Produce Safety The proposed rule would establish science-based minimum standards for the safe growing, harvesting, packing, and holding of produce on farms. http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=FDA-2011-N-0921-0001

3. Proposed Rule: Foreign Supplier Verification Programs (FSVP) for Importers of Food for Humans and Animals— On July 26, 2013, FDA issued proposed regulations that would greatly strengthen the oversight of foods imported for U.S. consumers. http://1.usa.gov/1jEeD8l

4. Proposed Rule: Third Party Accreditation of Auditors or “Certification Bodies”— On July 26, 2013, the FDA published for public comment its proposed rule to establish a program for accreditation of third-party auditors, also known as certification bodies, to conduct food safety audits and issue certifications of foreign facilities and the foods for humans and animals they produce.

http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/FSMA/ucm361903.htm

5. Focused Mitigation Strategies to Protect Food Against Intentional Adulteration

This proposed rule would require the food businesses in the United States and abroad to take measures to prevent facilities from being the target of intentional attempts to contaminate the food supply. http://1.usa.gov/1fVCv2p

RECOMMENDATIONS 

Despite the federal government shutdown, FDA did have major accomplishments as the above examples illustrate. They illustrate the necessity for “an FDA”. Hopefully though the proposed rules will be finalized shortly and hopefully Congress will revisit FDA regulatory authority for some products such as dietary supplements where FDA can only legally exercise post-enforcement. Stay tuned for more about the role of FDA and for more food and drug law updates in 2014.

 

Modernizing the U.S. Food Supply— A Progress Report on FDA Proposals

Food Safety Modernization Progress Report

Did you know that much of the food that Americans consume originate from countries outside of the United States? The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), signed into law back in January 2011, addresses imported food as well as food produced in the United States.  Major accomplishments include a final rule and four proposed rules.Here is a synopsis of the final and proposed rules.

Final Rule Administrative Detention of Food 


Criteria Used to Order Administrative Detention of Food for Human or Animal Consumption which amended the criteria for administrative detention to prevent potentially unsafe food from reaching the marketplace. The final rule issued February 2013 adopts the interim final rule, “Criteria Used to Order Administrative Detention of Food for Human or Animal Consumption,” published in May 2011, without change.  

Guidance For Industry on Administrative Detention


On March 7, FDA released a revised guidance on administrative detention entitled “Guidance for Industry: What You Need to Know About Administrative Detention of Foods; Small Entity Compliance Guide.”

Proposed Rules: Prevention, Produce Safety, Foreign Supplier Verification and Accreditation

  • Preventive Controls;
  • Produce Safety;
  • Foreign Supplier Verification, and
  • Third Party Accreditation

Proposed Rule on Preventive Controls for Human Food

Preventive Controls Major Provisions Summary: This proposed rule, issued January 2013, would implement the requirements of FSMA for covered facilities to establish and implement a food safety system that includes hazard analysis and risk-based preventive controls. Specifically, the proposed rule would establish requirements for:

  • A written food safety plan;
  • Hazard analysis;
  • Preventive controls for hazards that are reasonably likely to occur;
  • Monitoring;
  • Corrective actions;
  • Verification; and
  • Associated records.

Proposed Rule for Produce Safety

Produce Safety Major Provisions Summary: This proposed rule would establish science-based minimum standards for the safe growing, harvesting, packing, and holding of produce on farms. The following are the proposed new standards in the following major areas:

  • Worker Training and Heath and Hygiene;
  • Agricultural Water;
  • Equipment, Tools, and Buildings; and
  • Sprouts

Foreign Supplier Verification Program 

Foreign Supplier Verification Programs (FSVP) for Importers of Food for Humans and Animals Summary: On July 26, 2013, FDA issued proposed regulations that would greatly strengthen the oversight of foods imported for U.S. consumers. Under the Foreign Supplier Verification Program (FSVP) regulations, importers would be required to perform certain risk-based activities to verify that food imported into the United States has been produced in a manner that provides the same level of public health protection as that required of domestic food producers. The FSVP regulations would implement section 301 of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

FSVP Requirements: Under the proposed FSVP regulations, an importer would be required to develop, maintain, and follow an FSVP for each food it imports, which, in general, would need to include the following:

  • Compliance Status Review
  • Hazard Analysis
  • Verification Activities
  • Corrective Actions
  • Periodic Reassessment of the FSVP
  • Importer Identification and
  • Recordkeeping

Third Party Accreditation of Auditors or “Certification Bodies” 

Accreditation Rule Summary: On July 26, 2013, the FDA published for public comment its proposed rule to establish a program for accreditation of third-party auditors, also known as certification bodies, to conduct food safety audits and issue certifications of foreign facilities and the foods for humans and animals they produce. The proposed rule would implement Section 307 of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The proposed rule contains requirements relating to auditing and certification of foreign food facilities and food under the program and for notifying the FDA of conditions in an audited facility that could cause or contribute to a serious risk to the public health.

Model Accreditation Standards Although not part of the proposed rule, the FDA plans to issue draft model accreditation standards that would specify what qualifications a certification body must have to qualify for accreditation, such as the minimum requirements for education and experience for third-party auditors and their audit agents. FDA will issue the Model Accreditation Standards in draft and open a docket to accept comments. After considering the comments received, the FDA will finalize the standards.

Assessment Issues

The major issue with these proposals involves the timeframe for these proposed rules. Many will opine that FDA is again “dragging its feet”. After all, the Food Safety Modernization Act was signed into law in early January 2011. Now, over two years later FDA finally announced four proposed rules and only one final rule was solidified. Why did it take so long or did it? The answer is far from clear cut. Perhaps the lengthy timeframe as some would argue is because these are complicated issues and FDA needs to ensure that administrative law due process procedures are adhered to with proper notice and comment. The question remains though as to when the four proposed rules will be finalized. If FDA receives comments that would essentially change the proposed rule in a substantial manner, then FDA would have to return to the “drawing board” and announce a new proposed rule(s).  Hopefully, that will not occur as the safety of the United States food supply remains at stake.