According to a news source, a federal court in Virginia, adopting a magistrate judge’s recommendation, has approved a $12 million settlement that will compensate those who became ill or died after consuming products containing Salmonella-contaminated peanuts. In re: Peanut Butter Corp. of Am., No. 10-cv-27 (U.S. Dist. Ct., W.D. Va., decided September 2, 2010). Among the 122 eligible claimants are 45 minors and nine wrongful death claimants. The contaminated peanut butter and peanut paste were used in hundreds of products and led to a massive recall of foods such as candy, crackers and cookies. The outbreak purportedly sickened more than 700 people throughout the country and was linked to nine deaths. The settlement has reportedly been funded by the insurance carrier for the bankrupt peanut company. See Mealey’s Litigation Report: Food Liability, September 2, 2010.
Meanwhile, The Associated Press (AP) has reported that the peanut company’s former president is currently employed as an industry consultant. A criminal investigation of allegations that Stewart Parnell ordered employees to distribute the tainted peanut products despite Salmonella-positive lab results has apparently dragged on for more than 18 months, leaving him in a “legal limbo.” Parnell, who is advising other peanut companies about brokering peanut-making equipment sales, is reportedly anxious to get the incident behind him. According to AP, those purportedly sickened during the outbreak are angry that Parnell is earning a living in the food industry. One was quoted as saying, “I will be a thorn in this guy’s rear end until he’s in prison.” Another reportedly said, “He’s still walking the streets almost two years later, whereas my mother is lying 6 feet under. It’s just not fair. If the Food and Drug Administration does not go after Stewart Parnell, the message they are sending to the industry is don’t worry about it, ship it. He should not be anywhere near the food industry.” See The Associated Press, September 7, 2010.