Judge sentences former Peanut Corp executive to 28 years in prison in salmonella case

Dive Brief:

  • Stewart Parnell, 61, the former CEO of the Peanut Corporation of America was sentenced to 28 years in prison Monday. He was convicted of 68 federal felonies regarding a salmonella outbreak in 2008 and 2009 that likely had a part in killing nine people and sickening more than 700.
  • Michael Parnell, his brother, received 20 years, while Mary Wilkerson, the salmonella source plant's quality control manager, was sentenced to five years.
  • A life sentence was previously suggested for Stewart Parnell, and his maximum sentence could have been 9,636 months, or 803 years, in prison, according to U.S. District Court Judge W. Louis Sands, who delivered the sentencing.

Dive Insight:

Stewart Parnell spoke in court Monday at his sentencing hearing, asking for forgiveness from a courtroom with victims' families present, reported the Associated Press.

While he noted problems at his Georgia facility, he did not discuss incriminating emails and company records highlighting his knowledge of the salmonella-infected peanut butter, in addition to altering lab results.

Parnell and the two co-defendants are the first U.S. food manufacturers who stood trial in a food poisoning case, according to experts. His family pleaded with the judge for mercy in sentencing.

Families of sickened children and deceased adults asked for harsh sentencing for Parnell. A child, who was 3 at the time of his illness from peanut butter crackers, also asked for a harsh sentence.

This case is considered by some experts to be "the first food-poisoning trial of American food processors," Associated Press reported.

The sentencing is part of the foundation of expectations related to the government's crackdown on food safety and increased accountability for food companies and their executives and managers to ensure utmost safety compliance in their contributions to the food supply.

Filed Under: Food Safety