Please don’t let the title mislead you.  I am certainly not implying there is a lighter side to any individual’s foodborne illness–as anyone who has ever experienced an E. coli infection or the like can tell you–but it is much less common for someone’s illness to be brought about by a nefarious act.  Unless, of course, you’re the children of William Cunningham.

As reported by the AP today, Mr. Cunningham (emphasis added) was sentenced yesterday to 100 years in prison for poisoning his two children with the goal of extorting money from Campbell’s Soup Co.  A  Georgia jury found him guilty of seven counts of aggravated assault.

He was indicted in July 2006 on tampering and fraud charges in federal court and was also charged with child cruelty in Clayton County. The girl and boy, then 18 months old and 3 years old, were hospitalized after Cunningham fed them soup tainted with prescription drugs and lighter fluid.

On one occasion, authorities said he used the prescription drugs Prozac and Amitriptyline — both used to treat depression — to poison the children.

Cunningham was arrested in March 2006. According to prosecutors, the former dump truck driver called Campbell’s in January 2006 and threatened to sue the company because its soup was contaminated.

Authorities said there was no evidence the soup was tainted when it was purchased. A family member said the youngsters may suffer lifelong respiratory problems after swallowing the poisoned soup.