Ethics in peanut butter case questionable

By Clyde Davis: CNJ columnist

I don’t know if I coined this term; I rather doubt it. Nonetheless, I find it a useful one, and have even used it in ethics classes that I have taught. Immediately, the class gets the sense of what I am talking about, when I refer to “flexible ethics.”

Maybe that is because examples abound, and perhaps in our time, seem to multiply. Exponentially.

Take, for example, the peanut company whose executives are being allowed (at the point of this writing) to plead the Fifth Amendment in regard to shipping peanuts which they knew contained salmonella. It seems obvious that they knew this, by their readiness to plead the Fifth.

No doubt, justice will prevail. The evidence will, hopefully, convict them anyway, and with any kind of rationale, they will be punished severely. Salmonella infection, for those who do not know, is harmful, painful, and potentially fatal.

Among the more revolting realities present in this story is the fact that the contaminated peanuts were found in, primarily, peanut butter. I would think it safe to say children are the largest consumers of peanut butter in the population.