WASHINGTON, D.C. — Minnesotans whose relatives died after eating peanut butter contaminated with salmonella testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee today during an hours-long hearing into the outbreak that sickened more than 600 and killed nine people.
In comments to the committee, Jeffrey Almer, a Minnesotan whose mother, Shirley, died after eating contaminated peanut butter, said that his grief was replaced with anger when he discovered why she had died.
“I believe that what Peanut Corp. of America did was criminal and I want to see jail time,” Almer said. “I want to see them [company officials] served nothing but the putrid sludge they’ve been dealing out.”
Lou Tousignant, whose father, Clifford, also died in Minnesota from peanut products contaminated with salmonella, echoed Almer’s disbelief.
“How can we truly be leaders of the free world if we can’t keep out own citizens safe from the food that we eat every day?” Tousignant said.
During the hearing, the president of the peanut company and the plant manager accused of knowingly distributing contaminated food refused to answer questions, citing the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination.
The salmonella outbreak has led to one of the largest food recalls in the United States, encompassing more than 1,000 products. Three Minnesotans have died.
The Department of Justice is currently investigating the company.
In a statement today, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said that she would continue to follow the investigation closely “to make sure justice is served.”
She also said that she would seek answers from U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack about the National School Lunch Program’s practices and safeguards in response to a report from Minnesota Public Radio that identified at least 16 schools across Minnesota that had found more than 2.5 tons of recalled peanuts in their inventories.
Earlier this month, Klobuchar, who sits on the Senate Agriculture Committee, sent a letter to President Obama urging him to appoint a new commissioner for the Food and Drug Administration to begin reforming the government’s food safety system.
Cynthia Dizikes covers Minnesota’s congressional delegation and reports on issues and developments in Washington, D.C. She can be reached at cdizikes [at] minnpost [dot] com.