Up until now the produce companies responsible for the spinach-related E. Coli outbreak have only had to face consumer lawsuits and bad press. Now the federal authorities are getting involved. Will they get a slap on the wrist? We shall see, but when the FBI gets involved, its generally pretty serious. Here's more from the San Fransisco Chronicle:
"A quest to locate the source of an E. coli outbreak that has sickened 191 people and killed one woman escalated Wednesday into a criminal investigation as federal agents raided the offices of two northern California produce processors for evidence that someone may have intentionally disregarded safety policies.
At about 9:30 a.m. agents from the FBI and Food and Drug Administration served search warrants at Natural Selection Foods LLC in San Juan Bautista and Growers Express in Salinas. Employees were asked to leave their work stations and visitors were barred from entering the doors, as investigators, donning rubber gloves, searched the facilities.
The FDA has said that this recent E. coli epidemic can be traced to spinach packaged by Natural Selection. But until now, the case has been a study for scientists -- not law enforcement. William Marler, a Seattle-based attorney, who specializes in food-borne illness cases and is representing nearly 100 people in the spinach E. coli outbreak, said he can count on one hand the times when the police have gotten involved.
One of those cases was the high profile Odwalla E. coli contamination in 1996 which killed a 16-month old girl and sickened 66 people. The case ended with the Half Moon Bay company pleading guilty to federal criminal charges of selling adulterated food products and agreeing to pay a $1.5 million fine.
Criminal investigators said they have reason to believe that spinach producers may have willfully turned their backs on following proper procedures. They spent much of Wednesday combing through paperwork and records, including quality assurance documents."
A proper FBI investigation ought to put to rest any rumours of this being an intentional bioterror attack. I wonder why the DHS isn't involved? Oh yeah, cause they're still a worthless bunch of idiots. It would be nice to have a Department of Homeland Security that could actually secure the homeland, ya know?