Judge sentences peanut executive to 28 years for salmonella outbreak

Sept. 23, 2015

The 61-year-old’s 28-year sentence may the harshest punishment ever imposed in the U.S. in a foodborne illness case.

A federal judge in Georgia sentenced former Peanut Corporation of America owner Stewart Parnell to 28 years in prison for his role in a salmonella outbreak that killed nine and sickened more than 700 people, according to usatoday.com.

Parnell was convicted in 2014 for knowingly shipping out peanut butter contaminated with salmonella, noted the article. He also worked to hide the evidence of the crime. He was found guilty on 71 criminal counts.

The 61-year-old’s 28-year sentence may the harshest punishment ever imposed in the U.S. in a foodborne illness case, stated the article. U.S. District Judge W. Louis Sands handed down the ruling.

Parnell’s brother, 56-year-old Michael Parnell, will spend 20 years behind bars, reported the release. He provided Kellogg’s with peanut paste from Peanut Corporation of America as a broker. Former quality control manager Mary Wilkerson was sentenced to five years in prison.

The Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention traced a national salmonella outbreak across 46 states to the company, shared the article. The outbreak began in 2009, prompting "one the largest food recalls in U.S. history."

The Georgia facility was found to have a leaky roof, roaches and evidence of rodents. Emails and other records showed lab tests had confirmed salmonella was present in the peanut butter before it was shipped to customers.

“This sentence is going to send a stiff, cold wind through board rooms across the U.S," tweeted William Marier, a food safety lawyer representing several victims’ families in the case.

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