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Peanut Executive Sentenced to 28 Years in US Salmonella Case

September 22, 2015
Food

peanutStewart Parnell, the former owner of the Peanut Corporation of America, has been sentenced to 28 years in prison for his part in an outbreak of salmonella that killed nine people and made 714 others ill in 2008.

The outbreak, which was traced back to peanut butter paste manufactured by PCA, spread across 46 states and resulted in one of the largest food recalls in US history. Parnell’s brother Michael, who worked as a food broker, was given a 20-year sentence, while the production plant’s quality assurance manager Mary Wilkerson was jailed for five years.

During an inspection of the production plant in Blakely, Georgia, inspectors found cockroaches and evidence of rats. Prosecutors accused the management at PCA of creating fake certificates claiming products were safe when they had been found to be contaminated. When the case was originally brought to court, a jury in south Georgia convicted Parnell of 72 counts of fraud, conspiracy and the ‘introduction of adulterated food into interstate commerce.’ Federal officials had recommended that Parnell receive a life sentence for his part in the cover-up.

Commenting on the case, U.S. Attorney Michael J. Moore of the Middle District of Georgia said, “The sentence that was handed down today means that executives will no longer be able to hide behind the corporate veil. The tragedy of this case is that at a peanut processing plant in Middle Georgia, protecting the public lost out to increasing of profits.”