Ex-Peanut Executive Gets 28 Years in Prison for Deadly Salmonella Outbreak
The former owner of Peanut Corporation of America was sentenced to 28 years in prison today for his role in a salmonella outbreak blamed for killing nine people and sickening at least 714 more, USA Today reports.
Last September, 61-year-old Stewart Parnell was convicted of more than 70 criminal charges, including conspiracy and obstruction of justice, for knowingly selling salmonella-tainted peanut butter and faking lab results designed to screen for the bacteria. From The Washington Post:
Court documents revealed that Parnell approved shipments despite containers that were partially “covered in dust and rat crap.” In one e-mail, after being informed that a customer’s shipment might be delayed because the results of a salmonella test were not yet available, Parnell wrote, ‘S—-, just ship it. I can’t afford to loose [sic] another customer.”
As the salmonella outbreak spread, inspectors from the Food and Drug Administration descended on the Georgia plant and documented a litany of unsanitary conditions, including mold, roaches, dirty equipment, holes big enough to allow rodents inside and a failure to separate raw and cooked products.
Parnell’s maximum potential sentence was 803 years in prison, but U.S. District Judge W. Louis Sands reportedly said “this is not a murder case” at Monday’s sentencing hearing.
“These acts were driven simply by the desire to profit and to protect profits notwithstanding the known risks,” said Sands. “This is commonly and accurately referred to as greed.”
Food safety lawyer William Marler, who represented many of the victims, acknowledged that the sentence was the longest ever in a food poisoning case, but said, “I think the fact that he was prosecuted at all is a victory for consumers.”
“This sentence is going to send a stiff, cold wind through Board Rooms across the U.S.” wrote Marler on Twitter.
[Image via AP Images]