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Publisher’s Platform: What is a Food Crime?

Do you remember Domino’s Pizza employees Kristy Hammonds and Michael Setzer, who made a video of Setzer, 32, putting cheese up his nose before putting it on a sandwich, passing gas on a piece of salami and sneezing on an order of cheese sticks, then hiding the mucus under the cheese before boxing the order?  

Hammonds, 31 at the time, narrates the videos, laughing and making encouraging comments. Hammonds and Setzer were charged with felony adulteration of food. Hammonds pleaded guilty to a lesser charge. She received a 45-day suspended sentence and 18 months probation. During her probation, Hammonds cannot work at any establishment that prepares or serves food or beverages. Hammonds also must complete 200 hours of community service and pay for her attorney fees, which amounted to $1,125. Setzer pleaded guilty, taking an Alford plea. This admits the evidence against him is strong enough to produce a guilty plea but admits no wrongdoing.  Setzer was given a six-month suspended sentence, 24 months supervised probation and he was ordered to have no contact with Hammonds or Domino’s.

And, Peanut Corporation of America President Stewart Parnell (who sickened over 700 and killed 9 in a Salmonella Outbreak in 2009) and Wright County Eggman Jack DeCoster (who sickened over 1,600 in a Salmonella Outbreak in 2010) have been charged with no crimes at all.

What the hell is with that?

© Food Safety News
  • Annie

    Stewart Parnell does belong in prison! How the heck did he get away with what he did?!?

  • hhamil

    It is further evidence, Bill, of what has already been shown to a clear bias of the American judicial system: whether or not you are charged and what you are charged with depends upon who you are. And to those who say it is as just additional evidence of our society’s bifurcation between rich and poor and big small, I say, “You need to open your eyes, ears, heart and mind to what is going to the nature of our society.”
    I remember well the letter my grandfather wrote to my mother in the late 1950’s on the day that the statute of limitations ran out on prosecuting the drunk driver who killed my great aunt and uncle–his brother and sister in law.
    “Pop” wrote her so that the day would not pass completely unnoted. The automobile crash (It certainly was not an “accident.”) occurred in the home county of a young man who was well connected within the judicial system so nothing was done.
    Why?
    Because, as the other 2 divisions of constitutional government, our judicial system is largely allowed free reign over its territory. Just look at Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas’ disregard for established judicial principles of the requirement to recuse himself when his own interest of that of his wife comes before the court. Yet, not only does he ignore it, he flaunts his disregard and no other sitting or even a retired justice speaks out.
    Of course, there is also plenty of evidence of similar disregard in both the legislative and executive branches of our government.
    It is clear to me that the source is the most dangerous of the 7 deadly sins–hubris. Its antidote is to be humility which literally means to be of the soil.
    I urge everyone to stop for a time this Independence Day, read the Declaration of Independence (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Declaration_of_Independence#Text) and remind her or himself of how the declaration was against a know-it-all, largely unfettered, central government that refused to hear the pleas of its citizens.
    And, Bill, I urge you and your fellow supporter of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) to note how centralized, know-it-all, largely unfettered the FSMA makes the FDA and how unwilling you and the FSMA’s executors are to hear the pleas of us, citizens. Your goals do not justify the means you employ.
    The over-reaching FSMA is exactly the type of legislation against which the 9th and 10th amendment were crafted.
    At the lowest ebb of our revolt against our mother country, a group of Carolinian and Georgian small farmers withdrew to an area above Augusta on the Savannah River they called the Hornet’s Nest. Their refusal to admit defeat, their willingness to fight on no matter what and their wise strategy and tactics turned around our revolution by stopping the advance of Cornwallis and his Tory allies again and again. After a couple of hard years, they sent him packing to Yorktown and his ultimate defeat. Some of those small farmers turned soldiers even followed him to Virginia to make certain he was completely defeated. It is all wonderfully chronicled by former President Jimmy Carter in his book, “The Hornet’s Nest.”
    My ancestor, a subsistence farmer who became known as Capt. John Milner was one of those who wouldn’t quit. After he had done his part, he returned and lived out his life in the Hornet’s Nest and is buried there. He is one of my role models in our fight for food sovereignty. I intend to follow his example.
    I wish that you and Food Safety News would join us in our struggle to make local, healthy food available to all Americans.

  • John Marcy

    Both of the men you mention are an embarrassment to the food industry, and I share your astonishment that Mr. Parnell was not indicted. Lesser crimes have certainly been prosecuted.
    Mr. DeCoster is also no stranger to S.e. going back more than 20 years ago to his farms in Maryland and then later in Maine. From what I read in the papers, he moved to Iowa to escape the mandatory testing imposed on him in Maine. I do think he should be out of business, but I don’t believe his egg farm and non-testing program rise to the level of disregard shown by PCA for their positive results and their retesting program.

  • jmunsell

    Mr. Hamil discusses abuse of the system by our 3 branches of government. I suggest there are 4, including our regulatory bureaucracies. The bureaucracy with which I am most familiar is FSIS, which adroitly avoids tracing contaminated food back to the SOURCE of contamination, which is the kill floor.
    88% of our feedlot finished steers and heifers are now killed at the Big 4 packers, at their high-speed plants. Unfortunately, the high chain speeds unwittingly deposit fecal material onto carcasses. Subsequent interventions remove most, but not all of the enteric bacteria. Therefore, these pathogens end up in boxed beef, trimmings, and ground beef shipped from these monolith slaughter plants. These bacteria end up at downstream further processing facilities, such as your local retail meat market, restaurants, nursing homes, meat processing plants, and in consumers’ kitchens.
    If FSIS collects a sample of ground beef at one of these downstream further processors, and detects E.coli, FSIS unleashes its full enforcement fury against the downstream establishment. And the agency refuses to go back to the source. Why? Because USDA/FSIS is paralyzed with fear of litigation emanating from the large slaughter plants, which enjoy enormous political clout and economic wherewithal. Please know that the agency has publicly admitted that it does not perform tracebacks when agency-conducted sampling reveals the presence of E.coli. This is not speculation.
    When an outbreak occurs, sickening individuals, then and only then (as the agency has admitted) does FSIS conduct a traceback in an attempt to determine the SOURCE, and to Force the Source to implement meaningful corrective actions. The agency should proactively and aggressively implement indepth traceback protocol whenever E.coli is detected, whether as a result of an outbreak, or “merely” as a result of a lab positive. FSIS staunchly disagrees with me. As such, USDA/FSIS is a scurrilous and formidable foe of Public Health imperatives.
    Just as Mr. Parnell is a formidable foe, so is off limits.
    FSIS is but another gov regulatory agency, virtually unaccountable for its policies and misbehavior. More so than our executive, legislative and judicial branches, these gov bureaucracies are an end unto themselves. Although their stated goals are to protect and promote public well being and health, their ultimate objective is but to maintain their existence absent any meaningful oversight.
    Welcome to contemporary America, where neither the largest corporate players nor the agencies which allegedly regulate actions of the biggest players are accountable for their behavior.
    John Munsell

  • Anni Quinn, consumer

    There’s little “justice” if you can afford to buy your way through the judicial system.
    This week again my heart will break when I finally receive a
    check from the national 2007 pet food settlement class action
    lawsuit. The irony, of course, is that I could not afford to
    treat all three pets for their chronic illnesses, and now all
    three victims are dead and beyond help. And worst of all deadly
    and dangerous commercial pet food, a $20-billion/year industry,
    rolls right along selling prettily packaged and well advertised
    crap pet food to oblivious consumers.
    Too many food producers and processors and retailers escape any
    criminal consequences for their dangerous products only because consumers continue to tolerate bad practices and hope it won’t be their family. But with increasing import and global
    production, the crisis only appears to get worse and worse. Caveat emptor.

  • Doc Mudd

    As with so many revisionist histories, historical accuracy and intellectual integrity are gently compromised in various popular recountings of the ‘hornets nest’ yarn. Factual oversight caused by wrapping one’s self so tightly, alternately in the American flag and the stars & bars, as to restrict circulation to the head and brain.
    Jimmy Carter’s historical novel, The Hornet’s Nest, is a fictional narrative in celebration of Southern jingoism. Let’s be clear; the American Revolution was not decided by random skirmishes in the dreary swamps of Georgia and the Carolinas. But, if southern guerilla fighters were absent from the decisive battles at Saratoga and Yorktown they were decidedly not altogether lacking in a crafty wartime strategem of their own.
    Notably lacking from the sanitized accounts are details of Southerners’ patriotic seizure of vast western Cherokee/Creek lands by treaty as spoils of the Revolutionary War…and subsequent political chicanery culminating in the Yazoo land fraud.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trans-Oconee_Republic
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yazoo_land_scandal
    We can reasonably expect the farcical modern day “fight for food sovereignty” to progress along roughly the same corrupt lines. Perhaps future historians will charitably varnish the truth of this insipidly anarchic foodie campaign to systematically dismantle the safest, most abundant and most affordable food system the world has ever known. Time will tell.

  • Harry Hamil

    It is further evidence, Bill, of what has already been shown to a clear bias of the American judicial system: whether or not you are charged and what you are charged with depends upon who you are. And to those who say it is as just additional evidence of our society’s bifurcation between rich and poor and big small, I say, “You need to open your eyes, ears, heart and mind to what is going to the nature of our society.”
    I remember well the letter my grandfather wrote to my mother in the late 1950’s on the day that the statute of limitations ran out on prosecuting the drunk driver who killed my great aunt and uncle–his brother and sister in law.
    “Pop” wrote her so that the day would not pass completely unnoted. The automobile crash (It certainly was not an “accident.”) occurred in the home county of a young man who was well connected within the judicial system so nothing was done.
    Why?
    Because, as the other 2 divisions of constitutional government, our judicial system is largely allowed free reign over its territory. Just look at Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas’ disregard for established judicial principles of the requirement to recuse himself when his own interest of that of his wife comes before the court. Yet, not only does he ignore it, he flaunts his disregard and no other sitting or even a retired justice speaks out.
    Of course, there is also plenty of evidence of similar disregard in both the legislative and executive branches of our government.
    It is clear to me that the source is the most dangerous of the 7 deadly sins–hubris. Its antidote is to be humility which literally means to be of the soil.
    I urge everyone to stop for a time this Independence Day, read the Declaration of Independence (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Declaration_of_Independence#Text) and remind her or himself of how the declaration was against a know-it-all, largely unfettered, central government that refused to hear the pleas of its citizens.
    And, Bill, I urge you and your fellow supporter of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) to note how centralized, know-it-all, largely unfettered the FSMA makes the FDA and how unwilling you and the FSMA’s executors are to hear the pleas of us, citizens. Your goals do not justify the means you employ.
    The over-reaching FSMA is exactly the type of legislation against which the 9th and 10th amendment were crafted.
    At the lowest ebb of our revolt against our mother country, a group of Carolinian and Georgian small farmers withdrew to an area above Augusta on the Savannah River they called the Hornet’s Nest. Their refusal to admit defeat, their willingness to fight on no matter what and their wise strategy and tactics turned around our revolution by stopping the advance of Cornwallis and his Tory allies again and again. After a couple of hard years, they sent him packing to Yorktown and his ultimate defeat. Some of those small farmers turned soldiers even followed him to Virginia to make certain he was completely defeated. It is all wonderfully chronicled by former President Jimmy Carter in his book, “The Hornet’s Nest.”
    My ancestor, a subsistence farmer who became known as Capt. John Milner was one of those who wouldn’t quit. After he had done his part, he returned and lived out his life in the Hornet’s Nest and is buried there. He is one of my role models in our fight for food sovereignty. I intend to follow his example.
    I wish that you and Food Safety News would join us in our struggle to make local, healthy food available to all Americans.

  • John Munsell

    Mr. Hamil discusses abuse of the system by our 3 branches of government. I suggest there are 4, including our regulatory bureaucracies. The bureaucracy with which I am most familiar is FSIS, which adroitly avoids tracing contaminated food back to the SOURCE of contamination, which is the kill floor.
    88% of our feedlot finished steers and heifers are now killed at the Big 4 packers, at their high-speed plants. Unfortunately, the high chain speeds unwittingly deposit fecal material onto carcasses. Subsequent interventions remove most, but not all of the enteric bacteria. Therefore, these pathogens end up in boxed beef, trimmings, and ground beef shipped from these monolith slaughter plants. These bacteria end up at downstream further processing facilities, such as your local retail meat market, restaurants, nursing homes, meat processing plants, and in consumers’ kitchens.
    If FSIS collects a sample of ground beef at one of these downstream further processors, and detects E.coli, FSIS unleashes its full enforcement fury against the downstream establishment. And the agency refuses to go back to the source. Why? Because USDA/FSIS is paralyzed with fear of litigation emanating from the large slaughter plants, which enjoy enormous political clout and economic wherewithal. Please know that the agency has publicly admitted that it does not perform tracebacks when agency-conducted sampling reveals the presence of E.coli. This is not speculation.
    When an outbreak occurs, sickening individuals, then and only then (as the agency has admitted) does FSIS conduct a traceback in an attempt to determine the SOURCE, and to Force the Source to implement meaningful corrective actions. The agency should proactively and aggressively implement indepth traceback protocol whenever E.coli is detected, whether as a result of an outbreak, or “merely” as a result of a lab positive. FSIS staunchly disagrees with me. As such, USDA/FSIS is a scurrilous and formidable foe of Public Health imperatives.
    Just as Mr. Parnell is a formidable foe, so is off limits.
    FSIS is but another gov regulatory agency, virtually unaccountable for its policies and misbehavior. More so than our executive, legislative and judicial branches, these gov bureaucracies are an end unto themselves. Although their stated goals are to protect and promote public well being and health, their ultimate objective is but to maintain their existence absent any meaningful oversight.
    Welcome to contemporary America, where neither the largest corporate players nor the agencies which allegedly regulate actions of the biggest players are accountable for their behavior.
    John Munsell

  • marco

    I think all the people including the domino’s employees should not only get at least a year in jail but should be forced to eat the food they contaminated as well. If I was served that Domino’s food I would want to be the one shoving it down their throats after I spit in it and the rest of what they did. Any business owner or manager or food worker who knowingly lets abused food get to the public should never be allowed to be connected with the food business in any way again. That means if you own the company you lose it. the fines and penalties have to be severe for it to have an impact.

  • Carole Cancler

    Last time I checked, a crime was a violation of laws for which the offender can be (but may not necessarily be) prosecuted using due process in order that justice be served. Of course, it’s pretty easy to find incidents today and yesterday where justice was carried out unfairly and sometimes not at all. If Parnell or DeCoster broke any laws, then why they were not prosecuted I can only guess. Was it a case of laziness on the part of prosecutors? Laws that were lacking in these specific instances? Hiding behind a corporate veil that protects an individual from prosecution? Perhaps you, Bill, could shed some light. Only in knowing more specifics can we determine what is broken and what needs to be fixed.
    However, it seems what you are really asking is the broader question of what (re)actions are just when it comes to food poisoning. While Parnell and DeCoster certainly are deserving of our wrath, my list of what constitutes injustice in our food system is much longer than a couple of schmucks—they are just the obvious targets; the low hanging fruit, so to speak.
    Here’s my list of what constitutes food “crimes”:
    Consumers who complain about paying $6-8/dozen for pastured eggs that are produced humanely will get all up in arms when the supplier of $3-4/dozen eggs—or any other cheap supplier—is found to be, uh, cutting corners. Gee, ya think? Yet, these same consumers think nothing of spending $3-4 on soda every week (approx. expenditure of the average consumption of 1 gallon soda per person per week in the US). When did soda become a beverage? What the hell are we thinking?
    Parents who can’t/won’t cook a meal from fresh ingredients for their kids, citing time and cost, so regularly provide family meals from the $1 (largely unhealthy) menu at the nearest drive-through. What the hell kinda parenting is that?
    Our nation’s poor who can’t afford enough food and who also use that same $1 drive-through menu for a cheap supply of sustenance, which tends to make them fat and sick. What the hell happened here?
    Corporations who lobby for laws to protect them from advocates who want video evidence of how our food is produced. What the hell happened to American pride and being a good corporate citizen?
    Producers who repeatedly (DeCoster?) are cited (by USDA/FDA/health agencies) for inhumane or unsafe practices and yet continue to operate. What kind of governance is that?
    The USDA who for 30+ years has used our tax dollars to fund what amounts to food marketing campaigns. The overwhelming evidence is that these campaigns have made big (food) corporations bigger and our food supply more “abundant” and “cheaper”, but less healthy. It is suggested by current data that if you factor in the actual nutritive value of our food supply that it is actually much more costly than before. What the hell are we thinking?
    Lawyers who have become a necessity in order to prosecute the most blatant errors, such as killing customers. Instead of spending our time and tax dollars up front on creating a food supply that provides workers with a living wage and consumers with healthful choices, we spend our dollars on sugar, salt, and fat, and then downstream on litigation and healthcare because we are obese, sick, and even killed. What the hell happened here?
    As a nation, one of the wealthiest and most progressive in the world, our food system is a disgrace. To me, this disgrace of our food system is the real crime.