NEW YORK—Representative Anthony Weiner called for the prosecution of the executives of the Peanut Company of America of Georgia for their reported role in knowingly shipping peanut products with salmonella. The shipments have lead to the sickness of more than 575 Americans, including 21 New Yorkers, and 8 deaths.
Georgia authorities are considering, but have yet to commit, bringing charges against the PCA executives. Up until now, New York prosecutors as well as those nationwide have deferred to federal prosecutors and Georgia authorities.
Weiner, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, said, “This is more than a simple lapse of regulations and incomplete paper work. This appears to be a case where someone willfully sent tainted food across the nation, including to children, and we know now that the results were fatal. These men and anyone else involved in this should face jail time.”
Under federal law, the operators of the peanut plant could face only up to 3 years in jail and a $250,000 fine ($500,000 for a company) if found guilty of the toughest charge – knowingly distributing contaminated food resulting in death. The House Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over food safety issues, will be holding hearing this week to review this case.
However, state prosecutors can bring criminally negligent homicide charges for the deaths that resulted in this case. According to news reports, “Georgia agricultural officials had said they would consider pursuing state manslaughter charges if federal authorities did not take up a case against the peanut processing plant in rural southwest Georgia.”
Weiner plans to introduce legislation to increase federal punishment for knowingly shipping a tainted product into the marketplace and give the federal Department of Justice new tools to crackdown on negligence.