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The Annual Food Safety News Christmas Eve ‘Naughty List’

Editor’s note: One of our Food Safety News Christmas traditions is to annually recognize those who have been “naughty” and those who have been “nice” – from a strictly food safety perspective, of course. This year, we’ve opted to split the lists so that we could devote all the attention that each list deserves. Check back here on Christmas Day for the “nice” list.

Without further ado, here are 10 people who were “naughty” in 2013:

Stewart Parnell, the former Peanut Corporation of America CEO, who said some swear word that had to be deleted right before ordering peanuts known to be contaminated with Salmonella shipped to his customers, was back and just as naughty in 2013. Indicted and awaiting trial on federal felony charges of fraud and conspiracy, Parnell helped push off the trial to 2014 with motions to get his passport back, to separate his trial from his brother’s (who is also charged), and, finally, to rely on his recently diagnosed ADHD as a defense. And Stew shows no signs of chilling out.

Ron Foster, chief executive officer of Foster Farms, showed his power to turn a food safety incident into a potential company disaster when he opted to damage the brand his grandparents built by NOT voluntarily recalling product associated with an outbreak. It’s difficult to tell just how much the privately held Foster Farms was hurt, but the story has not gone away since Oct. 7 when USDA issued a public health alert about raw chicken sickening 389 people with seven strains of antibiotic-resistant Salmonella Heidelberg. The role of USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) in the Foster Farms mess came in for criticism by the Food Safety Project of The Pew Charitable Trusts in a late December report.

Hamdi Ulukaya, the Turkish-American founder and sole owner of Chobani, Inc., had to buy a house near his $450-million Twin Falls, ID, yogurt plant this year after he also tried to avoid a recall when his yogurt developed a mold problem. After first just quietly removing Chobani yogurt from stores shelves beginning in late August, customer complaints and media inquiries brought a full-blown recall in September. Ulukaya moved into his Twin Falls house to personally work on the problem. He told the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce that, when the mold struck, his company had no top food safety executive or a plan for dealing with a crisis. It does now.

Vernon Hershberger, Wisconsin’s raw milk outlaw, was found not guilty of operating a food establishment, dairy farm, and dairy plant without the necessary licenses. And, in the aftermath of the celebration of his jury trial in Baraboo, Republican State Sen. Glenn Grothman introduced legislation to make licensed raw milk sales legal in Wisconsin. And what did Hershberger do? He showed up to testify against the raw milk bill because – to paraphrase here – he doesn’t need no stinking license! (The latest version of the Grothman bill comes up for a vote in the Wisconsin Senate in January.)

U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek (R-MI) tacked an amendment on to the House-passed version of the Farm bill to prevent the Secretary of Health and Human Services from enforcing “any regulations promulgated under the FDA Food Safety Moderation Act” until various extensive and extraneous scientific and economic analyses are completed and reported back to Congress. Not likely to be included if a conference committee version of the Farm Bill ever happens in 2014, but it still makes us remember how much we miss U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI), the former chairman of the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, who used to represent that Benishek’s district.

Jimmie Shearer, CEO of Sunland, Inc., kept secret the pending Oct. 7 bankruptcy of the country’s largest organic peanut butter processing company from Texas and New Mexico Valencia peanut growers, the local economic development authority, and just about everybody he did business with. Peanut growers were left in the lurch, and the latest economic development loan of $150,000 was just more good money after bad. Others on the Sunland board of directors also knew since April that the economic disaster was going to strike, but they, too, kept the City of Portales, NM (where Sunland was the largest private employer) in the dark.

U.S. Rep. Steve King (R-IA), sponsor of a Farm Bill amendment to override those state laws on cages and crates, claims he is out to protect interstate commerce and not harm food safety. King says his amendment stops states from imposing higher standards or conditions on food produced or manufactured in any other state. The Iowa Republican says that if his amendment harmed food safety, we’d be hearing more from USDA or FDA. Maybe, but, then again, maybe not.

Bian Zhenjia, assistant minister of the China Food and Drug Administration (CFDA), is currently the most visible food safety official for the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The PRC is currently demanding the right to do more on-site inspections in foreign countries, and U.S. requires inspection by both USDA and FDA of China’s food industry. But reports that China is going way too slow on processing visa requests for American food inspectors are not generating confidence. It’s very naughty and unnecessary. Did Zhenjia and other CFDA directors meet with Linda Tollefson, associate commissioner of the U.S. FDA, when the parties met in mid-December?

Ty Brookover and Earl Brookover, Jr., the top dogs at Brookover Feed Yards, Inc., in Garden City, KS, were not very neighborly to two out-of-town visitors who were hang-gliding this past summer over their agricultural operations. Instead, when local sheriff’s deputies found the car that transported the hang glider used by National Geographic photographer George Steinmetz of Glenn Ridge, NJ, and assistant Wei Zhang of Beijing, China, the Brookovers allowed the pair to be arrested for trespass. There is a big difference between being naughty and being neighborly.

© Food Safety News
  • Tracey Atkinson-Bagatta

    Interesting list…. glaringly missing the FDA for not recalling the chicken jerky treats that have killed and sickened thousands of pets! The FDA has the power under FSMA. They also had the opportunity to shut it all down when the Chinese factories refused to allow testing. What has all of this inaction produced??? Nestle Purina is currently shipping in tons (literally) of checken jerky produced in the same exact facilities in China, readying it for market in the very near future! (see Import Genius)

  • TrackMyCrop

    Hence the reason to read your labels. Country of Origin Labeling, my fruit salad is a product of China and Thailand BOO!!! NO USA NO LONGER GROWS AND PRODUCES PINEAPPLE. ;(

  • http://burningbird.net Shelley Powers

    Very enjoyable reading!

  • Jane

    Why are there only Republicans on this list? I guess it means only all the Democrats in Congress care about our health.

    • Kitx

      Or the GOP gets more money from Big Agra lobbies…

  • Jane

    Why was my comment not posted?

  • Andre Leonard

    Of these 10 selected. Chobani was the one that perhaps is misrepresented. To suggest that Hamdi had to purchase a house just to deal with a recall is stretching it. Fact is, if anyone spends close to a half billion dollars on a new plant, they would want to be close to their investment.

    Hamdi has in 8 years done what few other have done. Created a product that everyone loves and in doing so had to quickly expand to meet demand. Imagine having a billion dollars in sales of your product. In that time frame capturing the number one position of your market.

    Far from being “naughty” Hamdi handled the voluntary recall situation very well. With few exceptions, even a mistake means your trying.