Peanut butter

Four former officials employed by the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) have been charged with a 76-count indictment filed by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in relation to the 2009 sale of peanut butter contaminated with salmonella that killed nine people. The outbreak sickened more than 700 people.

According to Food Safety News, “Former PCA owner and president Stewart Parnell, of Lynchburg, VA, and three other former company leaders, have been charged with mail and wire fraud, the introduction of adulterated and misbranded food into interstate commerce with the intent to defraud or mislead, and conspiracy, according to the Department of Justice.  Stewart Parnell and two others were also charged with obstruction of justice.”

The Department of Justice investigation found company emails in which Parnell, “allegedly ordered the shipment and sale of products known to be contaminated with Salmonella. When other lots of peanuts tested positive for salmonella, he ordered them to be retested,” reports Food Safety News. During a hearing about the outbreak in 2009, Parnell, along with the PCA plant manager, Sammy Lightsey, invoked their Fifth Amendment rights to every question asked by members of Congress. The men were even offered samples of PCA peanut products, which they declined.

Bill Marler of Food Safety News, an attorney representing hundreds of claims against PCA said, “Corporate executives and directors of food safety will need to think hard about the safety of their product when it enters the stream of commerce.  Felony counts like this one are rare, but misdemeanor charges that can include fines and jail time can and should happen.”

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