Justice Department: Food companies risk prosecution for outbreaks

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Medical Caduceus (Image: MGN Online)

WASHINGTON (AP) – Following a deadly listeria outbreak in ice cream, the Justice Department is warning food companies that they could face criminal and civil penalties if they inadvertently poison their customers.

The administration has stepped up criminal enforcement on food safety cases after years of relative inactivity. A federal court in Georgia last year found an executive for the Peanut Corporation of America guilty of conspiracy and other charges after his company shipped out salmonella-tainted peanuts. The high-profile outbreak sickened more than 700 and killed nine in 2008 and 2009.

Associate Attorney General Stuart Delery wouldn’t say whether the government plans to pursue charges against Texas-based Blue Bell Creameries, which recalled its products earlier this year. The company’s tainted ice cream was linked to three deaths.

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