As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hunger Strike For CEO Parnell

I thought that the banksters' hearing would be the best in the House yesterday, but actually the hearing with the Georgia peanut plant owner was much more interesting - and enlightening.

As salmonella illness began spreading across the country last fall, the owner of a Georgia peanut plant that was causing the outbreak railed against the cost and delays that the contamination was causing his businesses, according to internal company documents obtained by Congress.

Stewart Parnell, president of Peanut Corporation of America, also pressed federal regulators to allow him to continue using peanuts from the tainted plant and shipped contaminated products to customers with a homemade certificate that falsely attested to their purity, according to e-mails and memos made public yesterday at a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Parnell, whose Virginia-based company is at the center of a massive food-contamination scandal and a federal criminal investigation, was compelled by subpoena to appear before lawmakers but refused to answer questions [...]

Federal regulators at the hearing called Parnell's actions "unconscionable"; several lawmakers called them criminal.

"This is a company that cared more about the financial bottom line than it did about the safety of its customers," said Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), the committee chairman.

Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) held up a large jar wrapped in yellow police tape stamped "Caution" and filled with some of the 1,900 peanut products that have been recalled as a result of the contamination. "I'm going to ask Mr. Parnell if he'd like to open this and sample some of the products that he thought it was okay for others to eat," Walden said.

Parnell, who showed no emotion, did not respond to Walden's invitation. Instead, he repeated the only line he spoke at the hearing: "Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, on advice of my counsel, I respectfully decline to answer your questions based on the protections afforded me under the U.S. Constitution."
(emphasis mine)

Parnell was actually on an advisory board on PEANUT QUALITY under Bush's Department of Agriculture.

If nothing else, the change in Administration portends a return to federal agencies and watchdogs actually performing their core functions again. President Obama has already called for a full review of the FDA and said that the government is too slow in tracking tainted food. I believe the President values competence and will do his best to remedy this.

One thing, though... this hearing took place in Henry Waxman's House Energy and Commerce Committee. Clearly it's more of a job for the Oversight Committee, though obviously the commerce of food makes it germane. These are the types of hearings Waxman held all the time at Oversight. Does he have to hold two gavels now? Is Ed Towns alive?

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