Georgia Legislation Targets Contaminated Food Producers

Fox Atlanta reports that Georgia state legislation could lead to the felony prosecution of food processors responsible for contaminated food products. The bill is being prepared a year after the deadly salmonella outbreak that stemmed from a Blakely, Georgia peanut processing plant. Nine people died in the outbreak, and hundreds became ill.

Georgia Representative Kevin Levitas will introduce the new food safety bill, which will call for felony punishment of one to 20 years for knowingly releasing contaminated food products that result in injury or death. The bill would also require companies to maintain better written records of food safety plans at processing plants.

“It sends out a strong message that Georgia stands for a high standard and we won't tolerate anybody who won't maintain those high standards. If you don't want to maintain them, then don't process food and don't grow it in the state of Georgia," said Rep. Levitas.

He plans to pre-file his bill at the state capitol. The Georgia General Assembly goes into session in January. While state legislation is being considered, some are still waiting for possible federal prosecution in the case.

"We certainly don't need to be spending state resources to duplicate what they're doing on the federal level. If the feds decide, hey we're not interested in doing this, that's the time for us to step in," Levitas said.

The federal government may indeed step in. Just last week the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that victims of the Salmonella outbreak are upset that there haven’t been any prosecutions yet, even thought FDA inspectors found roaches, mold, and a leaky roof.

Evidence shows that the head of the Peanut Corp. of America wrote emails to “turn them loose” after employees reported salmonella in the products. He wrote that his workers “desperately at least need to turn the raw peanuts on our floor into money.”

Still, federal prosecutors have not said whether or not Peanut Corp. of American executives will be facing charges.

“I thought prosecutions were a no-brainer,” said Lou Tousignant, whose father died from salmonella poisoning after eating contaminated peanut butter. “It seems like it’s been forgotten. That’s kind of how the country ebbs and flows. It’s in the news for a while, then everything quiets down.”

Creighton Magid, a products liability attorney in Washington, agreed with Tousignant: “It does surprise me.”

The victims are eager for action, reports AJC.

Gabrielle Meunier, whose 7-year-old son Christopher was hospitalized for a week after he was poisoned by salmonella, said, "The time is now. If the company's executives are spared prosecution, what does that say to the American public?"

GF “Pete” Peterman, the acting U.S. Attorney for the district including the peanut plant, did not comment to AJC reporters.

If the federal government does not take action, hopefully the state will take steps to ensure that food manufacturers will be properly punished for knowingly releasing tainted food to the public.

Have you been seriously injured by a contaminated or defective product? If so, contact an experienced Georgia personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. Call MLN Law at 404-531-9700 to schedule a free consultation.