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Peanut Executive Sentenced to 28 Years Over Salmonella Outbreak

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Peanut Executive Sentenced to 28 Years Over Salmonella Outbreak

Former peanut company owner Stewart Parnell, 61, was hit Monday with 28 years in jail for deliberately supplying consumers with salmonella-tainted products in a 2008 outbreak that claimed nine lives and sickened hundreds of others, according to CNN. Establishing a striking precedent, a federal judge in Georgia sentenced the former head of Peanut Corporation of America to a virtual life prison term, imposing arguably the harshest punishment ever for a food executive in a foodborne illness case.

U.S. District Judge W. Louis Sands additionally sentenced the former executive’s brother and co-defendant, Michael Parnell, 56, to 20 years behind bars for his involvement in the crimes. Former quality control and plant manager, Mary Wilkerson, 41, received a five-year prison term for her role in the fiasco.

The case originated from Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) findings that sourced a nationwide salmonella outbreak to a Blakely, Georgia peanut roasting plant operated by Parnell’s company. According to a final report from the CDC, the outbreak may have contributed to nine deaths and sickened 714 people across 46 states. The illnesses were discovered in January 2009 and spurred one of the largest food recalls in U.S. history to date.

A federal jury in Georgia convicted Parnell last September on 72 criminal counts, including fraud, conspiracy, introduction of adulterated food, and obstruction of justice. The verdict was reached after prosecutors provided evidence that Parnell and the other co-defendants knowingly shipped salmonella-tainted peanut butter from their Georgia facility, which federal investigators later found to have roaches, mold, bird droppings, evidence of rodents, and a leaky roof – a seemingly perfect breeding ground for salmonella.

Salmonella is the most common cause of foodborne illness in the United States, sickening nearly 1.4 million people each year. If you or somebody you love has been the victim of a foodborne illness, contact an experienced food poisoning lawyer for a free confidential case evaluation.

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