Hearings set on motions to vacate convictions and sentences of Parnell brothers in deadly Salmonella outbreak

Brothers Stewart Parnell, 66, and Michael Parnell, 62, have, respectively, another 18 and 11 years to serve in federal prisons for their 2014 jury convictions involving Peanut Corporation of America (PCA).

But with so-called “2255” evidentiary hearings now scheduled, on April 20  for Michal and on May 25 for Stewart, the early release of both men is a possible outcome. Their trial was in relation to a deadly Salmonella outbreak traced to their peanut products.

By getting evidentiary hearings on their motions to “Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct” their sentences, the Parnells have secured something many others do not get.

United States Magistrate Judge Thomas Q. Langstaff has agreed to hear the motions in the same Albany, GA, courthouse where the Parnells were convicted and sentenced.

Section 2255, according to Judge Langstaff, provides that:

“a prisoner in custody under sentence of a court established by Act of Congress claiming the … Read more

Researchers assess impact of COVID-19 measures on foodborne infections

Diseases including foodborne infections declined after public health measures were introduced because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a preliminary analysis in Australia.

Researchers have analyzed Nationally Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System (NNDSS) data to determine the effect of COVID-19 measures on some nationally notifiable diseases in Australia.

Implementation of health actions related to the virus in Australia beginning in mid-March 2020 such as physical distancing, travel restrictions and emphasis on hygiene, likely contributed to the lower than expected notification numbers, according to the study in the Communicable Diseases Intelligence journal.

Yearly comparisons
Scientists said quantifying the impact COVID-19 public health measures had on communicable diseases in Australia was “difficult” because of many confounding factors.

The study focused on social diseases such as influenza and rotavirus, imported infections such as measles, and foodborne diseases such as salmonellosis.

In the first six months of 2020, there were 50 percent fewer notifications … Read more

Letter from The Editor: A modest proposal for a better transition


The transition is our quadrennial gift for the National Capital Region’s real estate market because lot’s of moves are made.   

The Biden Administration has about 4,000 jobs to fill, and about 1,250 of those are political appointments that require U.S. Senate confirmation. The Washington Post and the Partnership for Public Service have launched the “Biden Political Appointee Tracker.” It is tracking the most important 756 top federal jobs that serve at the pleasure of the president with Senate confirmation. 

At the moment, no one has been officially named to any of the incoming administration’s top jobs and the Senate has not confirmed anyone. President-elect Biden has announced who he wants for 32 jobs, including his cabinet picks, but those don’t become official until Biden is sworn in on Jan. 20.

Filling all those jobs takes time. The White House must recruit and vet candidates, order up FBI background checks, Read more

USDA wants to hear produce industry’s voice in anonymous food safety survey

It’s one thing for someone working in the produce industry to attend a conference with all sorts of regulators and scientists talking about food safety. But it’s quite another thing for those folks to be asked what their greatest challenges are when it comes to managing food safety.

But that’s just the tack the USDA is taking in its anonymous online survey that asks growers, packers, buyers, consultants, suppliers, educators, auditors and regulators to rank their top five food safety management areas that need improvement.

“We are trying to understand what food safety concerns keep the produce industry up at night — in general, what are their biggest concerns,” said Meredith Melendez, a Rutgers cooperative extension agent and principal investigator of the survey for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The survey, which involves a national team of food safety researchers, takes only about 10 minutes to complete. It is designed … Read more

Study attempts food safety surveillance through text mining

Researchers are using text mining and supervised machine learning to try and identify unique words and phrases in online posts that identify consumers’ interactions with hazardous food products.

The team of scientists from San Diego State University, Virginia Tech, Loyola Marymount University and Radford University, say they hope this will provide a practical and inexpensive means for rapidly monitoring food safety in real time. 

These methods were used with a compiled data set of labeled consumer posts spanning two major websites. The researchers then compared their methods to traditional sentiment‐based text mining. 

After assessing performance in a high‐volume setting, using a data set of more than 4 million online reviews, the study found its methods were 77 percent to 90 percent accurate in top‐ranking reviews, while sentiment analysis was just 11 percent to 26 percent accurate. The study also aggregated review‐level results to make product‐level risk assessments. 

A panel of Read more