According to the Feb. 22, Wall Street Journal, federal prosecutors alleged that “Stewart Parnell, the former owner of Peanut Corp. of America, and other employees engaged in a multiyear conspiracy to hide the fact that many of the company's products were tainted with salmonella.”
The 76 count indictment against Parnell and ex-employees includes charges of conspiracy, wire fraud, obstruction of justice and introducing adulterated food into the market which resulted in nine deaths and hundreds of sick people after they consumed the salmonella tainted peanut butter that originated in a Peanut Corp. facility.
One lawyer called the case “the biggest of its kind in decades.”
But it certainly is not the only one. Two other federal probes are under way into separate outbreaks.
The law firm representing Parnell said, “Mr. Parnell never intentionally shipped or intentionally caused to be shipped any tainted food products capable of harming PCA's customers,” but prosecutors told a different story.
“In some cases, company officials fabricated lab results, stating peanut products were salmonella-free even when tests showed otherwise, or when no tests had been conducted at all,” said federal prosecutors.
Others charged were Parnell's brother, Michael Parnell, a former supervisor, and two more employees, former plant operator Samuel Lightsey and former quality-assurance manager Mary Wilkerson, as well as former employee, Daniel Kilgore, who has already pleaded guilty to several charges.
According to the WSJ, “Peanut Corp. sold peanut butter and peanut paste to companies that made products including cookies, crackers and pet food.” The salmonella outbreak resulted in recalls of more than 2,000 products. Shortly after the 2009 outbreak, the company filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection.
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