On Monday, Stewart Parnell, the former CEO of the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA), was sentenced to 28 years in prison for his role in knowingly allowing the shipment of salmonella-tainted peanuts. In 2008, a deadly outbreak of the illness that killed nine people and made 714 sick was traced back to peanut butter manufactured by PCA. Parnell was convicted on 72 counts of fraud, conspiracy, and the introduction of adulterated food into interstate commerce last year.
While the case of PCA was unusual in that Parnell knowingly allowed the sale of tainted food, it may actually be much harder to prevent salmonella contamination than it seems. This became evident in Israel last week in a meeting of the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee regarding a recently approved dry food reform.
In the meeting, Dr. Roni Surkis, the chief veterinarian of the supermarket chain Shufersal, said that despite the supermarket taking precautions, “it’s known that most poultry in this country contain salmonella bacteria,” the Jerusalem Post reported.
Dr. Yoni Yinon of the Israeli Ministry’s National Food Service then explained that in fact, most poultry has the salmonella bacteria, as well as other bacteria, and therefore the public needs to know that “it is mandatory that it be cooked.”
“We have a national program to reduce the bacteria, as they do abroad, by explaining the dangers and how to avoid them. The bacteria exist in raw poultry, which must not been consumed without proper cooking using heat,” he said.
The issue came up with regard to a clause in the bill that would prevent the sale of food with bacteria. Lilah Dahuah, a lawyer for the Co-op Blue Square supermarket chain, called the clause “too strict,” and warned that it would lead to “endless class-action suits.”
The director of the Israeli Ministry’s National Food Service, Eli Gordon, responded that “it is completely clear that the importer and manufacturer have more responsibility. But, it may be that food that is not stored properly is harmed due to negligence of the retailer.”
Salmonella is a bacteria that an cause acute diarrhea, which typically does not severely affect healthy people. But for those with compromised immune systems, the disease is particularly dangerous because they can develop arthritis and chronic joint paint. Other than diarrhea, the symptoms of salmonella include nausea and vomiting, headaches, stomach cramps, and fever. Children and the elderly are particularly vulnerable to the bacteria.