Friday, April 10, 2009

Texas Offers Symbolic Fine on Bankrupt Peanut Company

Texas health officials closed the barn door long after the cows got out. They fined Plainview Peanut Company $14.6 million for unsanitary production lines. The company's salmonella tainted peanut products sickened 691 and killed 11.

Actually the number sickened is 692. Standard Times columnist Ross McSwain was hospitalized after eating peanut butter crackers, later recalled for contamination. He spent a week in the hospital. Being the gentleman he is, Ross wants no recourse.

That's good as Plainview peanut's corporate owner declared bankruptcy. Management indicated Plainview's filing to be imminent. The Fort Worth Star Telegram provided more interesting tidbits:

1. Plainview Peanut accepted corporate welfare in the form of $1 million in local tax incentives
2. The plant operated for four years without a Texas food manufacturer's license.
3. Texas Agriculture Department inspected the plant 3 times. Health authorities found out about the plant through news reports.
4. Company President Steven Parnell ordered salmonella tainted peanut butter shipped to customers.

He ignored test results, for what? Did Mr. Parnell have an incentive compensation package? What role did productivity and profit incentives have in his order to ship bad product?

Texas was a day late and a dollar short at every turn on the Plainview Peanut case. It almost cost West Texas a chronicler of history. Maybe, Ross will do a story on the window dressing record fine on a bankrupt company.

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