Food and Drug Administration's Power to Prosecute

What authority does the FDA have in the wake of a contaminated food-related outbreak?

  • law books
     While reporting dozens of drug-related criminal convictions on its website, the FDA reports few food-related cases..
    Photo by Fotolila/MA Ford

  • law books

The following article is posted with permission from the Food Safety News.

More than a year after the deadly Listeria outbreak that stemmed from Jensen Farms’ cantaloupes was first detected, criminal charges have yet to be filed against the company, but the Food and Drug Administration’s website says its outbreak investigation is still open.

FDA’s report was last updated on January 8, 2012 with information provided by the Centers for Disease Control in its final update, which reported a total of 147 illnesses in 28 states, 33 deaths and one miscarriage linked to the outbreak.

Since FDA has yet to close the case – or notify the public of any further actions regarding the outbreak – will Jensen’s face criminal prosecution sometime in the future?

The U.S. Attorney’s office in Denver would not confirm nor deny the existence of any investigation into the Jensen Farms case when contacted by Food Safety News.

Lack of Prosecution Not Unusual

The lack of criminal charges in the wake of a widespread outbreak like this one is not unprecedented. The 2008-2009 Salmonella outbreak linked to peanut products from the Peanut Corporation of America that sickened more than 700 and killed nine has still not resulted in criminal charges, despite the fact that the company’s CEO, Stuart Parnell, evidently knew that some products were contaminated before they were shipped out, and an FDA investigation revealed numerous sanitation violations at the company’s production facility.

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