Tyson Foods made headlines in February when it was fined millions for allegedly bribing meat inspectors in Mexico in 2004. But a new report from the New York Times indicates that prosecutors in the case may not have gone far enough after all. Though the fines were steep, at no point were individual employees implicated in the court case. Tyson said that all the involved parties have been reprimanded or dismissed internally, but none faced legal punishment. Only the company's coffers suffered a blow—which, the report notes, does little to dissuade future corruption on an individual level.
The case is especially disconcerting in the wake of this summer's massive outbreak of E. Coli in Europe. It highlights the fact that smart inspection laws are not always sufficient to guarantee safe food. Enforcement is always contingent on human inspectors—who are both fallible and bribable. The report noted that no food-borne illness was associated with Tyson meat from Mexico in this case.