Editor Letter

Letter from the Editor: Is ‘food safety culture compatible with DOJ?

– OPiNION – ROSEMONT, IL — This year’s keynote at the 24th Annual Food Safety Summit was about “food safety culture.”  FDA officials Conrad Choiniere and Donald Prater did a stand-up act, reminding the audience of about 800 that “food safety culture” is already on their radar screen.  FDA’s “New Era” acknowledges the importance of…


ROSEMONT (IL) — The keynote address at the 24th Annual Food Safety Summit focused on “food safety cultures”. Conrad Choiniere, and Donald Prater, FDA officials, reminded the audience of about 800 about how “food safety cultures” are already on their radar screen. FDA’s “New Era” acknowledges the importance and value of a “food security culture

Further: Mathew Lash, Assistant Director of the Department of Justice’s Consumer Affairs Branch, explained that cooperation in an investigation can make a big difference in the way DOJ handles the case.

Michael Roberson, the director of corporate quality assurance for the South’s Publix Super Markets, provided a case study for a company that makes “food safety culture” part of its daily existence for the 298,000 employee-owners of Publix.

Food safety culture is often discussed in a “you’ll see it when it happens” manner. However, both in the session on getting to know your regulators as well as the keynote presentations about food safety culture, questions were raised about whether companies are cooperating during severe investigations or not.

Maybe they’re just large law firms, as one questioner suggested. Or maybe it’s some “lawyer up .”


But these conversations trigger something in my back of the mind. It was the “Yates Memo” which I was referring to. It was about “Individual Accounting for Corporate Wrongdoing.” This memo was written by Sally Quillian Yates, Deputy Attorney General at the time.

“The Department of Justice is committed to tackling corporate fraud and other misconduct. Effective enforcement of civil and criminal laws that protect our financial systems and all citizens is essential for the nation’s economic health,” begins the Yates memo. It has been revised but remains in force.

The Yates memo discussed how DOJ should pursue corporate wrongdoing. Many large law firms, including those that represented the food industry, sent client advisory memos at the time. These were the six main topic areas in the Yates memo:

1. To be eligible for any cooperation credit, corporations must provide to the Department all relevant facts about the individuals involved in corporate misconduc

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