Georgia State legislation is in the works that could lead to felony prosecution of food processors responsible for contaminated products. The bill is being prepared almost a year after a deadly salmonella outbreak linked to a Georgia peanut plant.
The Blakely, Georgia peanut processing plant was the focal point of a nationwide salmonella outbreak earlier this year. Nine people died and hundreds became ill.
Now, a new state food safety bill will call for felony punishment of one to 20 years for knowingly releasing tainted food products that result in injury or death.
The measure by Georgia Representative Kevin Levitas also would require companies to maintain written food safety plans at processing plants. Levitas said he plans to pre-file his bill at the state capitol. The Georgia General Assembly goes into session in January.
Even as state legislation is considered, observers are still waiting for possible federal prosecution in the case.
"We certainly don’t need to be spending state resources to duplicate what they’re doing on the federal level. If the feds decide, hey we’re not interested in doing this, that’s the time for us to step in," said Levitas.
Since the outbreak, plants operated by the Peanut Corporation of America have been shut down. Georgia peanut growers say prices for their crop have increased, but have still not fully recovered.