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Sept. 21, 2015 by Erin Kesler

CPR's Steinzor Reacts to Parnell Sentencing

Today, Stewart Parnell, former peanut company executive was sentenced to 28 years in prison for his role in a salmonella outbreak that resulted in the deaths of nine people and the illness of 174.

CPR Member Scholar and University of Maryland School of Law professor Rena Steinzor issued the following statement in response to the sentencing:

This sentence shows that the courts are willing to drop the boom on white collar criminal defendants whose elevation of profits over safety go so far as to kill people.  Parnell ordered the shipment of peanut paste contaminated by salmonella that not only killed nine people, but also produced one of the biggest recalls in food safety history.  His factory was a disgusting place, with broken equipment, a leaking roof, and rodent droppings throughout.  Hopefully, this kind of prosecution will motivate the Congress to fully fund FDA efforts to prevent such tragedies.

Steinzor is the author of Why Not Jail? Industrial Catastrophes, Corporate Malfeasance, and Government Inaction.

 

Sept. 17, 2015 by Rena Steinzor
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CPR Member Scholar Rena Steinzor reacted to today's announcement of a settlement between General Motors and the Justice Department over charges stemming from the company's failure to disclose a deadly ignition defect it millions of its cars. Steinzor said:

This settlement is shamefully weak. GM and its executives knew for years that they had a big problem with the ignition switch, which caused cars to stall at high speeds, depriving drivers of power steering, brakes, and airbags.  The company’s dysfunctional culture convened committees to palaver about it, while nothing was done, a culture described by Mary Barra, GM’s CEO, as “the GM nod.”  But daunted by the company’s size and prestige, U.S. attorney Preet Bharara blinked, collecting $900 million as a cost of doing business, but excusing GM from admitting its criminal wrongdoing.  This kind of sweetheart deal shows that justice …

Sept. 14, 2015 by Thomas McGarity
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At long last, the Food and Drug Administration has promulgated two critical regulations implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011 (FSMA).  The regulations flesh out the statute’s requirements for facilities that process human food and animal feed.  Of the regulations that FDA has proposed in order to implement the FSMA, these are perhaps the least controversial.  Indeed, they have won praise from everyone from the Grocery Manufacturers Association to the food safety director of the Pew Charitable Trusts.  This blog post focuses exclusively on the regulations governing human food. 

The regulations require all processors of human food to prepare and maintain plans for ensuring that their products are not contaminated with pathogens.  A processing facility must conduct a hazard analysis and institute preventive controls to mitigate the hazards identified in the analysis.  The company must monitor those controls, conduct verification activities to ensure that the …

March 30, 2015 by Frank Ackerman
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There must be a global template for business complaints about regulation, located on some secret right-wing server. Just type in the industry and the name of the regulation: Billions of dollars are at stake, companies will be driven out of the industry and consumers will lose access to low-priced products, if the government dares to impose an ordinary, common-sense rule. Such as, making drug companies responsible for the safety of their products?

Aren’t pharmaceutical companies already responsible for warning their customers of known adverse effects? If you answered “yes, of course,” then you missed the Supreme Court’s 2011 ruling in Pliva v. Mensing. Currently, generic drug companies are required by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to use exactly the same labels and warnings as the corresponding brand-name drugs. Therefore, the Court ruled in Mensing, the producer of a generic drug cannot be held responsible …

March 1, 2015 by Matthew Freeman
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Last December, the Justice Department announced the indictiment of the owner/head pharmacist, the supervising pharmacist, and 12 others associated with the New England Compounding Compounding Center. The 131-count indictment, which included 25 charges of second-degree murder, grew out of a 2012 outbreak of fungal meningitis caused by contaminated drugs manufactured by the company. More than 750 patients were diagnosed with the illness as a result, and 64 patients in nine states died from it. 

In a February 28, 2015, op-ed in USA Today, CPR President Rena Steinzor, author of Why Not Jail? Industrial Catastrophes, Corporate Malfeasance, and Government Inaction, recounts the story and then takes a look at how policymakers reacted, and what came of their response. The tragedy laid bare a gaping hole in the nation's regulatory fabric, and rather than addressing it with straightforward legislation and resources to enforce it, Congress pass a …

Aug. 20, 2014 by Daniel Farber
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FDA has stalled for 30 years in regulating antibiotics in animal feed. A court says that's O.K.

The FDA seems to be convinced that current use of antibiotics in animal feed is a threat to human health. But the Second Circuit ruled recently in NRDC v. FDA that EPA has no duty to consider banning their use.  That may seem ridiculous, but actually it’s a very close case legally.  The court’s discussion of Massachusetts v. EPA as an administrative law precedent should be especially interesting to environmental lawyers.

The Second Circuit’s ruling illustrates the tremendous discretion that agencies generally have about how to order their priorities and what tools to use to address problems.  That discretion isn’t unlimited, but it’s extremely broad.  It’s not necessarily improper — in fact, it’s fairly normal — for an agency or a President to …

Jan. 13, 2014 by Rena Steinzor
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Today, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) sent its benighted poultry-processing rule to the White House for final review.  The millions of consumers who eat undercooked chicken at their peril and the beleaguered workers in these dank, overcrowded, and dangerous plants can only hope the President’s people come to their senses over there and kill this misguided fiasco.   

Ordinarily, we would have hoped that newly installed Department of Labor secretary Tom Perez would have put his foot down before USDA proceeded with the final rule, but after months of pleas from the National Council of La Raza, African American labor advocates, trade unions, and consumer groups across the spectrum, he has remained aloof.  Apparently, the economic needs of multi-billion dollar poultry processing companies that have brought us salmonella outbreak after salmonella outbreak will once again trump the needs of the consumers and workers, especially Hispanic and …

Jan. 6, 2014 by Lisa Heinzerling
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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently recommitted itself to its lame proposal to address the profligate use of antibiotics in livestock by enlisting the voluntary participation of the drug companies that make the antibiotics.  Two documents issued last month reveal the details of the agency’s current plans.   The first is a final guidance document describing the FDA’s process for handling drug sponsors’ voluntary efforts to phase out “production uses” of antibiotics in animal feed and water and to bring the remaining uses under the oversight of a veterinarian. The second is a draft rule relaxing the requirements for veterinarians in exercising this oversight.  Production uses are aimed at promoting growth and improving feed efficiency, not at treating active infections.  The FDA will continue to allow mass medication of whole herds and flocks of livestock for purposes of preventing infection.

The FDA has, in internal …

Dec. 19, 2013 by Celeste Monforton
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Many Senate Democrats try to paint themselves as defenders of working people. They rail against their colleagues who are “in the pockets of corporations and the rich.”  But what they say, and what they do are two different things. This time, seven Democratic Senators are ready to screw poultry workers to please the owners of the poultry companies.

We’ve been writing for nearly two years on the USDA’s plan to “modernize poultry inspection” (e.g., hereherehere, here). It’s a plan that will give Tyson, Perdue, Pilgrims’ Pride and other poultry producers an additional $250 million a year in revenue. It will allow USDA to eliminate 800 inspectors, and it won’t improve, and could make worse, food safety. To “sell” poultry companies on the plan, USDA will allow them to increase line speeds up to 175 birds per minute.

The industry and …

Dec. 19, 2013 by James Goodwin
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It’s like a Russian nesting doll of bad policy:  House Republicans have contrived to take one of the most anti-science bills in memory and then place it inside one of the most anti-democratic legislative vehicles available.  It’s part of an attempt to ram through into law new rulemaking requirements that would benefit the already-healthy bottom lines of their corporate benefactors at the devastating expense of the health, safety, pocketbooks, and perhaps even lives of the American public.  That’s what is at stake with an obscure three-page rider—Section 12307, euphemistically entitled “Ensuring High Standards for Agency Use of Scientific Information”—in the 700-page House version of the Farm Bill (H.R. 2642, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013) that is currently undergoing conference committee consideration to resolve differences between it and the Senate version of the Farm Bill.  (See page …

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