Four Charged in Salmonella Outbreak Plead Not Guilty

It is very rare that food poisoning cases lead to federal criminal indictments.  However, when a company has shown by its actions a complete disregard for consumers and have endangered the health of the public to increase their profits, it will be held accountable by the federal government.

In 2009, more than 1,000 people were sickened and several killed by an outbreak of salmonella that originated from the Peanut Corporation of America, a large manufacturer and distributor of peanuts located in Blakely, Georgia.

When FDA officials inspected the company’s facilities, they found mold, cockroaches, leaky roofs, and other sources of contamination.  Recovered emails show that a batch of peanuts tested positive for salmonella, but when tested negative in a subsequent test, the owner Stewart Parnell instructed employees to “turn them loose” into the market. 

Earlier this month, four of the people charged in the 2009 salmonella outbreak, Stewart Parnell, owner of Peanut Corporation, his brother, Michael Parnell, food broker for the company, plant manager Samuel Lightsey, and Georgia plant quality assurance manager Mary Wilkerson, all pleaded not guilty to federal charges. 

In the 76-count federal indictment, the company is accused of misleading the public that its peanuts were free from salmonella even when laboratory tests proved they were not.  The two Parnell brothers, Lightsey, and Wilkerson have been indicted on charges of conspiracy, mail fraud and the introduction of adulterated and misbranded food into interstate commerce with the intent to defraud or mislead.

If convicted of all charges, Stewart Parnell could face up to 754 years in prison and a fine of $17 million.  His brother, Michael, faces a maximum of 437 years and a fine of $10 million.

Original story found here.