Food safety’s complicated case that still isn’t over

ALBANY, GA — Just more than eight years ago, well-known Georgia defense attorney Edward D. Tolley told a young majistrate judge that the criminal case they were both looking at was “complicated.”

Tolley had just joined the defense in the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) criminal case, which Magistrate Judge Thomas Q. Langstaff presided over.

It did not take long for the magistrate to rule that the multiple PCA indictments were “complicated” cases. The effect of the ruling was that Tolly and other defense attorneys working the case had more time to get up to speed.

Another Middle District of Georgia trial judge tried, convicted, and sentenced the PCA defendants. Those prosecutions all stemmed from a now 13-year-old multistate Salmonella outbreak that killed nine.

However, all that “ancient history” got replayed this past week, back in that same Magistrate courtroom in Albany, GA, where it all began. This time  Judge … Read more

Dates link in Hepatitis A outbreak enabled action before Ramadan

Findings that a hepatitis A outbreak was linked to dates allowed action to be taken before the start of Ramadan, likely reducing the number of people affected, according to a study.

Public Health England (PHE) and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) are investigating the hepatitis A virus (HAV) outbreak linked to eating Medjool dates from Jordan. Since the start of this year, 30 people have fallen ill in different parts of England with one person sick in Wales.

Researchers said date consumption was likely to increase because of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, which began in mid-April and ended in mid-May. Of those sick, 21 described their ethnicity as white British, five as white other and one as Asian. This information is not known for four people, according to the study published in the journal Eurosurveillance.

Dates are a popular food for breaking fast during Ramadan and … Read more

IFC highlights challenges for domestic food safety in Africa

Attendees of IFC’s first virtual food safety event have heard how Africa is tackling the issue of safe food domestically.

The 9th International Finance Corporation (IFC) International Food Safety Forum covered domestic and trade issues, as well as food safety culture over two days in May and is still available to watch. IFC is part of the World Bank Group.

In her opening comments, Jumoke Jagun-Dokunmu, IFC’s regional director for Eastern Africa, said discussions will cover the potential for increased investment that can unlock business opportunities while increasing food safety for people across the continent.

“We believe that improved food safety is helping clients meet regional and export market requirements, attract investment, realize cost savings and strengthen their brands. So far, IFC’s food safety advisory program has helped over 200 clients attract $607 million in investment and generate $709 million in new sales,” she said.

“We’d like to see a … Read more

Top hearing questions: What did the jury know, why wasn’t the trial moved

ALBANY, GA — Stewart Parnell, his hands-free but his wrists attached to the chain around his waist and ankles, was back in the federal courthouse Monday, where a jury nearly seven years ago found him guilty of multiple federal food safety crimes.

His reappearance at the C.B. King federal courthouse in Albany, GA, was also a bit of a reunion as Parnell spent the day listening to testimony by three of his defense attorneys from his 2014 trial. One issue is whether Parnell was the victim of ineffective counsel when he was convicted and sentenced to 28 years in federal prison.

When he went to trial on multiple federal felony charges in 2013, Parnell seemed to have a “dream team” for his defense. Among them were former Albany prosecutor and now judge  Ken Hodges, recently elected to the Georgia Court of Appeals; former federal prosecutor Thomas J. Bondurant; and Gentry … Read more

Last minute plan to combine hearings for former peanut executives quashed by Magistrate

Starting this morning in federal court in Albany, GA, brothers Stewart and Michael Parnell are getting the week to make collateral attacks on their prison sentences with back-to-back evidentiary hearings on their 2255 Motions.

Federal Magistrate Thomas Q. Langstaff on Friday ordered consecutive, not concurrent, hearings. And that was always the plan. But on Friday, the lawyers tossed in a motion to U.S. Court for the Middle District of Georgia requesting consolidation of the two evidentiary hearings.

“The Petitioners were tried as co-defendants and co-conspirators at a joint trial in this Court, and they raise two claims concerning their respective counsels’ failure to move for a change of venue and failure to move to strike jurors for cause,” the joint hearing motion said.

The ink on the motion, however, was barely dry Friday when Judge Langstaff flatly denied it. He had his reasons. The petitions are almost two years old; … Read more