Shook, Hardy & Bacon Agribusiness & Food Safety Co-Chair Madeleine McDonough discusses various legal, legislative and regulatory issues expected to affect food and beverage manufacturers over the coming year in two January 2, 2015, Law360 articles.
Given the September 2014 convictions of former Peanut Corp. of America owner Stewart Parnell and two other company executives on criminal charges stemming from a 2008-2009 Salmonella outbreak that sickened hundreds of people nationwide and was linked to nine deaths, McDonough speculated that similar misdemeanor prosecutions under the Park Doctrine could be on the rise.
“People are really watching all of the fallout from the Parnell situation and trying to keep that in mind in making sure they have appropriate procedures internally,” McDonough told Law360. Under the Park Doctrine, food and drug company executives can be criminally prosecuted for product safety violations without any proof that the executives had any specific knowledge or participation in the alleged wrongdoing.
McDonough also predicted that state attorneys general and the plaintiffs’ bar will continue to collaborate in filing putative class action proceedings that allege unfair and deceptive advertising and marketing practices. “Not only will it be government-sponsored litigation, but it will spin off into individual litigation, either basic tort cases or consumer fraud class action cases,” she said.
As for ongoing regulatory and legislative initiatives affecting industry, McDonough said campaigns advocating taxation of sugar-sweetened beverages likely portend other state and federal initiatives on the horizon. “There are more and more control efforts brought by industry critics, and I think those have the potential to lead to litigation as well.”