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Twenty-Eight Year Sentence for Food Poisoning Sheds Light on the Crime of Food Poisoning

In September 2015, a peanut company executive, Steve Parnell, was sentenced to 28 years in prison for his role in the distribution of peanut butter contaminated by salmonella that led to the deaths of nine victims and seriously sickened at least 714 people. Parnell was convicted by a jury and was found to have knowingly shipped peanut butter contaminated with salmonella and faking the test results screening for salmonella. Many of the batches tested positive for salmonella but were shipped anyway, while some of the batches were never tested at all and but were cleared for distribution.

Product Liability Cases Usually End In Civil Damages

This is one of the few cases of product liability that have led to criminal consequences. Generally companies that sicken or kill people due to defects in their products usually end up facing civil charges leading to big payouts to the victims. In this case, Parnell (as well as his brother and the plant quality control manager) was charged and will spend years in prison for knowingly shipping contaminated peanut butter, which may set a precedent for future product liability cases with similar facts.

Florida’s Law on Poisoning with the Intent to Kill or Injure

In Florida, there are certain food and product standards that are set in place relating to quality of products in Florida. There are also federal laws that dictate the standards for food and products nationwide. Though criminal charges are rarely invoked for product liability cases, Floridians may still find themselves in hot water in the case where they knowingly poison or introduce an additive to food, drinks, and products that causes harm to the consumer.

According to Florida law, a person who adds in or mixes in any type of bacterium, poison, radioactive material, virus, or chemical compound into any product, food, drink, or medicine that is to be consumed or ingested with the intent to kill or injure can be convicted of a felony in the first degree. A person may also be convicted for willfully poisoning a spring, well, or reservoir of water with bacterium, virus, radioactive material or chemical compound with the intent to poison the water.

Poison-Related Homicides Uncommon

Poison-related homicides are not very common, however. The FBI estimated that in 2010, there were only 11 poison-related homicides, in comparison to almost 13,000 murders committed by guns, knives and blunt objects. These numbers, however, only refer to homicides where poison was the established weapon of choice. Food poisoning, in general, is rather common; in 2013, as reported by the CDC, there were 818 foodborne-related outbreaks that resulted in roughly 13,000 illnesses, 1,100 hospitalizations, and 16 deaths. What may be more difficult is to make the connection between negligent-based food poisoning and willful food poisoning with the intent to injure or harm.

Recent Sentencing Could Lead to Stricter Following of Food and Drug Standards By Food Executives

However, one thing is clear: as a result of the recent ruling against Steve Parnell, his brother, and the quality control manager for their role in the deaths of nine and sickening of hundreds, companies that produce food, drinks, and ingestible products will be more likely to ensure that they are following state and federal food and drug standards, especially where the punishments go beyond just compensating the victims.

Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in Fort Lauderdale

If you have been charged with a crime, an experienced criminal defense attorney like Kevin J. Kulik can advocate on your behalf and provide you the best defense possible. Contact Kevin J. Kulik today for a free and confidential consultation in the Fort Lauderdale area.

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