Former peanut executive sentenced in salmonella outbreak

Former peanut executive sentenced in salmonella outbreak
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Former peanut company executive Stewart Parnell has been sentenced to 28 years in prison and three years of supervised released for his role in the salmonella outbreak of 2009 that resulted in nine deaths and affected more than 22,000 people in 46 states.

A federal jury convicted Parnell, 61, the former owner and president of the Lynchburg, Va.–based Peanut Corporation of America (PCA), and his brother Michael Parnell, 56, a former food broker who worked on behalf of PCA, on multiple counts of conspiracy, mail and wire fraud and the sale of misbranded food last September, according to the Department of Justice.

Stewart Parnell was also convicted of introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce. He and Mary Wilkerson, 41, PCA’s quality assurance manager, receptionist and office manager, were also convicted of obstruction of justice.

On Monday, a U.S. District Court Judge in Georgia sentenced Michael Parnell to 20 years in prison and three years of supervised release and Wilkerson to five years in prison and two years of supervised release.

The Parnell brothers and Wilkerson, the DOJ said, all played a role in shipping salmonella-positive peanut products to customers before the results of microbiological testing were received and then falsifying those microbiological test results.

“Today’s sentencing sends a powerful message to officials in the food industry that they stand in a special position of trust with the American consumer, and those who put profit above the welfare of their customers and knowingly sell contaminated food will face serious consequences,” Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division, said in a news release Monday.