Peanut Corporation of America officials found guilty

By Joseph James Whitworth

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Crime

The recall involved more than 40 states and was one of the biggest in history
The recall involved more than 40 states and was one of the biggest in history
A federal jury has returned guilty verdicts against three former Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) employees in relation to a Salmonella outbreak which sickened almost 700.

Stewart Parnell and Michael Parnell were convicted of conspiracy, mail and wire fraud, and the introduction of misbranded food into interstate commerce, according to the US Department of Justice.

Stewart Parnell was convicted of the introduction of adulterated food. He and Mary Wilkerson were also convicted of obstruction of justice.

A date for sentencing has not yet been set but the Parnell’s could face decades in prison.

The defendants were not charged in connection with the deaths from the outbreak and the jury did not hear evidence on the fatalities.

Salmonella outbreak from peanut butter

The 2008-2009 outbreak sickened at least 700 and killed nine people nationwide and resulted in a huge peanut butter recall.

The investigation began after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) traced a national outbreak to a PCA plant in Blakely, Georgia producing peanuts and peanut products.

The verdicts followed a seven-week trial during which prosecutors presented the testimony of 45 witnesses and introduced 1,001 documents into evidence.

Samuel Lightsey and Daniel Kilgore, former operations managers for PCA, testified after having earlier pleaded guilty to several crimes for their roles in the sale of Salmonella-tainted food by PCA.

Eric Holder, attorney general, said the verdict confirms the outbreak was a direct result of the actions by the convicted.

“This verdict demonstrates that the Department of Justice will never waver in our pursuit of those who break our laws and compromise the safety of America’s food supply for financial gain.

“[Any] individual or company who puts the health of consumers at risk by criminally selling tainted food will be caught, prosecuted, and held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”

Misled customers

The government presented evidence that Stewart Parnell and Michael Parnell – with Lightsey and Kilgore – participated in several schemes to defraud PCA customers and jeopardize the quality and purity of their peanut products.

Defendants misled customers about the presence of Salmonella in their products by fabricating documents of lab results with shipments of peanut products.

According to the evidence the Parnells, Lightsey and Kilgore stated that the food was free of pathogens when there had been no testing or tests had revealed the presence of pathogens.

Michael J. Moore, US Attorney of the Middle District of Georgia, said the defendants were willing to put tainted food onto the shelves of stores across the country.

“After this trial, it should be clear that individual accountability, not just corporate responsibility, for criminal conduct that puts public safety in jeopardy is now the norm in the eyes of the Department of Justice,” ​he said.

“And while the evidence over the last few weeks has focused on the criminal acts of these defendants, let’s not forget that there were real victims in this case who became ill and suffered greatly because making money, at least to the defendants, was more important than making sure that the peanut products they put into the marketplace were safe.”

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