The former owner of a peanut company was sentenced to 28 years in prison on Monday for faking lab results to show salmonella-tainted peanut products were safe and then shipping the products to customers. Stewart Parnell of the now-defunct Peanut Corporation of America faced 803 years in prison after he was convicted of 70 felony charges last year. A salmonella outbreak in 2008-2009 was linked to the deaths of nine people and hundreds of illnesses, triggering one of the largest food recalls in U.S. history.
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 sentence was the harshest ever handed down for a food safety case, according to the Justice Department. The 61-year-old’s brother, Michael Parnell, who worked as a food broker for the company was sentenced to 20 years, and a manger at the company, Mary Wilkerson, was sentenced to five years in prison. All three are planning to appeal, according to their lawyers.