The Peanut Corporation of America knowingly distributed salmonella contaminated peanuts to manufacturers and presented faked documents to back up those false claims, in what has become one of the largest salmonella outbreaks in U.S. history, according to court testimony. The trial has begun for three executives of the peanut producer over the 2009 outbreak that killed nine people and sickened at least 700 others.
Peanut Corporation of America went bankrupt in 2009 after it was identified as the source of the outbreak. Then-plant manager Sammy Lightsey testified against plant owner Stewart Parnell, saying he discovered that the company was shipping peanuts on the same day they were harvested. This goes against protocol, which requires peanuts to be tested for salmonella before they are sold to industrial food customers, such as nursing homes, schools and food suppliers.
The particular shipment Lightsey was referring to were to be sold to Kellogg’s for use in their peanut butter crackers. Lightsey said he immediately brought this to the attention of Michael Parnell, Stewart Parnell’s brother and the staff member who handled the Kellogg’s account. “He informed me it was set up before I got there and don’t worry about Kellogg’s, he can handle Kellogg’s,” Lightsey testified.
Michael Parnell, Stewart Parnell, and the peanut plant’s quality control manager Mary Wilkerson were indicted last year on 76 criminal counts that allege the three shipped peanuts contaminated with salmonella to manufacturers and covered up lab tests that showed some batches had tested positive for the bacteria. Stewart Parnell and Wilkerson were also charged with obstruction of justice.
Lightsey was charged with and pleased guilty to seven criminal counts related to the outbreak. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) agreed to give Lightsey a lighter sentence in exchange for his testimony.
Source: Headlines & Global News