Pictured is Stewart Parnell, he is one of the sons of Hugh Parnell who founded the company that became known as Peanut Corp. of America. The peanut business has been good for Stewart and his wife, children and grandchildren. He built a home in Lynchburg, Virginia, has a vacation home in Nags Head, North Carolina, likes fishing, and is an avid tennis player, flies his own plane and is a member of the Oakwood Country Club in Lynchburg. His company had $25 million in sales last year. Seemingly a man on top of the world, except of course for the fact of nine human deaths directly due to his greed that he may ultimately be held accountable for in a court of law.
On other thing about Mr. Parnell, he is actually acutely aware of the law and his rights, even when he may have broken the law.
During Stewart Parnell’s appearance before congress today, the owner of Peanut Corp. of America was asked by Representative Bart Stupak, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee:
Did you or any officials ever place food products into inter state commerce you knew to be contaminated with salmonella?
Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, on advice of my counsel, I respectively decline to answer your questions based on the protections afforded me under the U.S. Constitution.
Representative Greg Walden later asked Parnell if he would be willing to open a jar of his company’s peanut butter that was proffered during the hearing and eat some of his product, Parnell declined to answer, invoking the Fifth Amendment, as he did throughout the hearing.
As reported by MSNBC after Parnell was dismissed by the committee:
Shortly afterward, a lab tester testified that the company discovered salmonella at Peanut Corp. of America’s Georgia plant as far back as 2006.
The House panel released e-mails obtained by its investigators showing Parnell ordered products identified with salmonella shipped and quoting his complaints that tests discovering the contaminated food were “costing us huge $$$$$$…”
A laboratory owner told the House panel that the peanut company’s disregard for tests identifying salmonella in its product is “virtually unheard of” in the nation’s food industry and should prompt efforts to increase federal oversight of product safety.
Charles Deibel, president of Deibel Laboratories Inc., said his company was among those that tested Peanut Corp. products and notified the Georgia plant that salmonella was found. Peanut Corp. sold the products anyway, according to an FDA inspection report.
“What is virtually unheard of is for an entity to disregard those results and place potentially contaminated products into the stream of commerce,” Deibel said.
Deibel said he hopes the crisis leads to a greater role for FDA in overseeing food safety and providing more guidance to food makers.
Something the general public may not be aware of, this was not the first time Parnell’s company has been involved in putting tainted products in to the food stream. As reported by Dan Chapman and Margaret Newkirk in their story for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Peanut Corp. of America has had to undergo product recalls in the past, and seems to have been on the losing end of lawsuits relating to products they have processed and shipped.
While Parnell may be quite familiar with the law, in terms of invoking his civil rights, let’s hope he becomes even more intimately aware of the law and experiences justice. Maybe he can serve some time in a nice, cozy penitentiary, and enjoy a diet of Peanut Corp. of America food products.
Maybe some of the Wall Street fat cats will be able to join Stewart in prison one day, I am sure there is a warehouse full of Peanut Corp. of America tainted products that can be fed to them too.
Life as Stewart Parnell knew it has begun rapidly fading away. As noted above, Steward Parnell took the cowardly way out from testifying about his involvement in knowingly distributing tainted food from his peanut processing plant. A few days later, as reported by Kate Brumback and Greg Bluestein for the Associated Press, Parnell’s company, Peanut Corp. of America filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
A Chapter 7 filing means that the company will be totally liquidated. This would likely mean that by the time law suits are brought by the surviors of consumers who contracted salmonella and died as a result of ingesting Mr. Parnell’s products, there will be no assets to compensate plaintiffs should they prevail in court. The only recourse for plaintiffs then would be other companys further down the food chain, such as King Nut Company and the Kellogg Company.
Somehow liquidating the company and then walking away from the disaster he created seems to an “easy out” for Mr. Parnell. One can only hope that he may eventually have to divest himself of some of his personal assets, and spend some reflective time in the penal system, contemplating where his greed has taken him.