Brothers and former peanut company owners Stewart and Michael Parnell, were convicted of conspiracy, fraud and other federal charges after a salmonella outbreak was traced back to their processing plant. A third defendant, Mary Wilkerson, a former quality control manager for the plant was found guilty on one count of obstruction of justice. The brothers were convicted of 97 federal felony counts. Bond was set for $150,000 for Stewart Parnell and $100,000 for his brother. Sentencing has not yet been scheduled. They are expected to receive 27-33 years each. The outbreak resulted in one of the largest food recalls in U.S. history. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 714 people in 46 states were sickened and nine people died. This case is the first time plant workers and corporate executives have been tried in a food poisoning case.
The Parnell brothers are accused of covering up lab results showing positive traces of salmonella. Prosecutors say they used fake lab results as not to slow the robust pace of shipping. Scores of shipping records, emails and lab test reports were submitted as evidence. In a specific email, when informed lab results could delay a shipment, Stewart Parnell wrote: “Just ship it. I cannot afford to (lose) another customer.”
Salmonella is a food borne illness that affects 1.4 million people every year. It is usually associated with the eggs, meat and raw milk of animals that carry the bacteria. Federal inspectors found rats, roaches, mold and bird droppings in the facility. There was also found an improperly functioning peanut roaster that was unable to heat to the temperature needed to kill salmonella. The company was also found to have a system of producing fraudulent test lab results. The plant was shut down in 2009 and the corporation has since gone bankrupt. At one time the Parnell brother’s products were used as ingredients in crackers and other snacks. They also sold 40,000 pounds of peanut butter paste to Kellogg’s twice a week.
If you or someone you know was sickened or killed by contaminated food, call Atlanta attorney, Charles McAleer at (404) 622-5337. Visit McAleerLaw.com and connect with us on Twitter and Facebook.