Former Peanut President Gets Convicted For Salmonella Poisoning In 2009
The Department of Justice has just announced that a federal jury has found Peanut Corporation of America’s (PCA) two former officials along with its food broker guilty with regard to salmonella-tainted peanut products that caused an outbreak of salmonella poisoning back in 2009. Former owner of PCA, Stewart Parnell, was found guilty of conspiracy, mail and wire fraud as well as the introduction of misbranded food into interstate commerce and the introduction of adulterated food.
Moreover, The Wall Street Journal reports that Parnell, along with other former employees, had allegedly concealed from its consumers that a lot of PCA’s products were contaminated with salmonella.
The said conspiracy resulted in the deaths of nine people after consuming PCA’s peanut or other PCA products that were manufactured in CPA’s plant in Georgia. PCA’s former operations managers, Samuel Lightsey and Daniel Kilgore, had earlier pleaded guilty to their role in the salmonella outbreak. Moreover, they also provided their testimonies during the recent trial.
At the same time, Tom Bondurant, Parnell’s lead attorney, has said that his client would appeal the verdict. He told The Wall Street Journal, “We respect the process the jury went through, but obviously thought the decision was wrong.”
Expert evidence during the trial presented over 700 reported cases of salmonella poisoning. Meanwhile, the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has estimated as much as 22,000 cases related to salmonella poisoning from PCA’s peanut products, based on epidemiological projections.
Following the verdict, Attorney General Eric Holder has remarked, “As this verdict confirms, the salmonella outbreak that caused nationwide panic five years ago was a direct result of the actions of these individuals.”
He added, “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. All Americans must be able to rely on the safety of the food they purchase. And 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.”
Meanwhile, Stewart’s brother Michael who was a food broker was also convicted with multiple charges along with Mary Wilkerson, a former quality assurance manager for PCA. Evidence presented at the trial included fabricated certificates of analysis (COA) for various shipments of PCA’s peanut products. The Parnell brothers, along with Lightsey and Kilgore, fabricated various COA’s to state that its food was free of any pathogens when in fact, either no testing was done or the tests actually indicated the presence of pathogens.
According to U.S. Attorney Michael J. Moore of the Middle District of Georgia, “We expect, and rightfully so, for food suppliers to follow the rules and regulations, and to never sacrifice public safety for profits. In this case, these 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. 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.”
The judge is yet to set a date for the sentencing of the Parnell brothers and Wilkerson.