Lying About Salmonella Poisoning - Attorney Carlos A. Gamino in Milwaukee

Attorney Carlos A. Gamiño is a criminal defense lawyer who pays close attention to cases involving the Food and Drug Administration. On today’s radar: a recent case involving a now-bankrupt peanut company that sparked one of the largest-scale food recalls in the country.

We’ve all heard it a million times: salmonella can be deadly. It’s why handling raw chicken is dangerous, why rats getting into peanuts can kill you and why insects near your food (even before it’s processed) should be a major concern.

So what would cause a former manager of the Peanut Corporation of America to lie about the deadly bacteria being present in his company’s products, killing nine people before the outbreak of poisoning was contained?

Loyalty to his company, that’s what.

The Peanut Corporation of America Trial

On August 14, former Peanut Corporation of America manager Samuel Lightsey came clean about why he told federal investigators that the company tested frequently for salmonella and that none of their products tested positive.

“I was trying to play damage control, trying to protect the company,” Lightsey testified during his former boss’ trial. He said that he recanted the lies and told the truth when he realized the outbreak had sickened more than 700 people and that nine of them died.

Loyalty is Commendable, but Honesty is the Best Policy

In a case like this, I often wonder how other people would react if they were in Lightsey’s shoes. Had he told the truth sooner, perhaps the outbreak could have been better contained. Maybe fewer people would have gotten sick, and fewer would’ve died.

It turns out that the plant had three positive salmonella tests in the year leading up to the fatal contamination – but nobody said a word. They didn’t even recall the products that came from the tainted peanuts.

What would you do in a situation like that? Would you put your company’s reputation on the line in order to potentially save lives?

Let me know in the comments – I’d love to hear your take.

Attorney Carlos Gamiño