Friday, February 13, 2009

Peanut Corp.'s Stewart Parnell Deserves Death Penalty

Here in New Orleans, the news is that the young mother who tossed her baby into Lake Pontchartrain may be given the death penalty if found guilty. The girl may be a sociopath or she may be a disturbed young woman raised in the Bible Belt who was only taught abstinence and feared telling her parents the truth that she was pregnant.

I'll give her the benefit of the doubt that she was out of her mind when she killed her child, but Stewart Parnell, owner of Peanut Corp., the company linked to the nation's latest salmonella outbreak is a sociopath, the wealthy kind we excuse. Parnell should die at the hands of the state in the name of the people and justice.

You read that right. I'm not following my tendency to speak cautiously with words like "if he did it" or with lofty ideals such as "all life is sacred." I'm saying it plain, Parnell deserves the death penalty.

Have you heard about the emails showing Peanut Corp. chose profits over lives and Parnell knowingly sent salmonella-tainted peanuts into the marketplace? Nine people have died, more than 600 have become ill.

If he were a wild teenager from a minority group who'd shot someone in a "nice" neighborhood, people would say "Kill him!" And that teenager would have at least the argument that he was young and impulsive, poor and from a distressed neighborhood where he was exposed to violence. What's Parnell's excuse?

He's as calculating as Ted Bundy and as ruthless as a hardened thug. He shouldn't be allowed to hide behind poor FDA oversight, our need to revamp the food safety system,etc. Send him to his maker.

When I blogged this story last month, major brand peanut butters were not considered a threat in our food supply, but now per CBS, FDA officials are considering labeling peanut butter a high risk food. In addition, The New York Times reports another Peanut Corp plant outside of Georgia may be positive for salmonella, leading to more recalls.
The company’s plant in Blakely, Ga., was identified a month ago as the source of a nationwide salmonella outbreak. And even though investigators soon determined that the company may have deliberately shipped contaminated products to some of the nation’s largest food makers, officials allowed the company’s plant in Texas to continue supplying customers. (NYT)
CNN reports this morning that dead rodents and rat excrement at the Texas plant led to Texas recall. (Updated 2/13)

Nancy W. at BlogHer wrote a recent post with updates on potentially tainted peanut butters.

The Atlanta Journal & Constitution has a history of Peanut Corp.'s rise to its current falling and in it I learned that Peanut Corp. has a crappy record:
Peanut Corp. and trouble aren’t strangers.

In the fall of 1989, an Oklahoma peanut broker sold raw and roasted peanuts to the Parnells and shipped them to their previous Texas plant in Gorman. Peanut Corp. turned some of the peanuts into peanut butter that was sold the following year to the American Candy Co.

American Candy turned the peanut butter into nearly 8,000 cases of Kisses for Wal-Mart. Not a single Kiss, though, crossed a candy-lovers’ lips.

On Sept. 14, 1990, Peanut Corp. sent out an “Urgent Food Recall” notice to American Candy and maybe three-dozen other recipients of the Parnells’ peanut butter, according to a lawsuit filed in Bedford County Circuit Court in Virginia. A month earlier, the Food and Drug Administration informed the Parnells that the peanuts used to make the peanut butter “contained unacceptable high levels of aflatoxin,” a toxic mold. Consequently, Peanut Corp.’s peanut butter and dark roasted peanut granules “exceed FDA established tolerance level for aflatoxin.”

Hugh Parnell told American Candy he’d dispose of the bad peanut butter and credit their account for any loss.

American Candy wasn’t mollified. It sued Peanut Corp. for $150,000 —- the cost of the tainted peanut butter, storage and replacements. In May 1993, Peanut Corp.’s insurance company paid $90,000 to settle the case, according to the lawsuit.

The Parnells had already begun litigation against their supplier, Nutra Nut Corp., claiming much of the peanut shipment was “stale and/or rancid.” They sought $200,000; they settled for $10,000, according to court papers. (Blakely plant part of firm with humble start)
I'm not exaggerating when I say Parnell's probably a sociopath and deserves the death penalty. We associate sociopaths with axing people to death and feeling nothing, but the truth is that the white collar market has many a corporate sociopath, someone who makes decisions with only his or her best interest in mind and would push a button to kill millions just as easily as they clock in to work if they believe they can get away with it and gain millions.

Psychologists don't use the word sociopath as much as they used to because they've begun using the term antisocial personality disorder, but even they disagree about definitions.


Merle T Cornpone said...

You are 100% correct, Parnell is a mass murderer.

The Chinese sentenced the person responsible for the milk contamination in China to death, already!

I hope Parnell is tried in a state with the death penalty, like Texas.
I hope his henchmen and board of directors also are tried.

Aftercancer said...

I could not agree more. If they decide to spare him then he should receive life in prison. Oh and that time should be spent in the general population and in a State prison not federal.

msladydeborah said...

An Ohioan just died this week from eating some form of tainted peanut products.

I have to agree with you on this one. It is mass murder when a corporation intentionally distributes a product that is tainted.

Anonymous said...

We all decried those Chinese and how could they poison their own people with milk tainted with melamine. Yes, they are truly horrible. But now with Mr. Stewart and his selling poison peanuts, nary a word. Yes, it's always someone else who is evil, but never an American who is a businessman trying to make money. Another notch on the hypocrisy watch. The American legal and business system needs to be totally revamped so that corporations are not treated as individuals, and individuals who are above the law at that.

Vérité Parlant said...

I appreciate the comments. Usually after I write something that sounds harsh, the next morning I get up and think I shouldn't have been so blunt. Not this time. I'm sticking to Parnell should die.

My daughter's afraid to buy peanut butter now. I told her we can go to the FDA site and see what's o.k. But really, you're still taking a risk because it's now obvious somebody's dropped the ball on regular inspection of plants. Like most things, the government may be letting the businesses police themselves.

For some company's that's acceptable because the owners actually care about other people. For others, as we see in Parnell's case, the only care about making money.

Thanks, again.