Three people convicted over a nationwide salmonella outbreak have been sentenced to tough sentences of up to 28 years in prison, the US Justice Department said.
Two ex-officials of & a broker for the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) were jailed in Albany, in the US state of Georgia, for their roles in a conspiracy to defraud consumers approximately peanut health risks.
Expert evidence at their trial showed tainted food led to a salmonella outbreak in 2009. More than 700 reported cases of salmonella poisoning in 46 states resulted.
According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), based on epidemiological projections, that number translates to more than 22,000 total cases — including nine deaths.
They sought to deceive "their customers by shipping salmonella-positive peanut products before the results of microbiological testing were received & falsifying microbiological test results," a justice department statement said.
Stewart Parnell, 61, the ex-owner & president of PCA, was sentenced to 336 months, or 28 years, in prison plus three years of supervised release.
Michael Parnell, 56, a food broker who worked on behalf of PCA & Stewart Parnell?s brother, was sentenced to 20 years plus three years of supervised release.
Mary Wilkerson, 41, who held various positions at PCA?s Blakely, Georgia plant, including receptionist, office manager & quality assurance manager, was sentenced to five years.
"Americans should be able to trust that the food we buy for ourselves & our families is safe," said Acting Associate Attorney General Stuart Delery.
"Today's sentencing sends a powerful message to officials in the food industry that they stand in a special position of trust with the American consumer, & those who put profit above the welfare of their customers & knowingly sell contaminated food will face serious consequences,? said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin Mizer, head of the Justice Department?s Civil Division.
The Parnell brothers were convicted by a federal jury in September last year of multiple counts of conspiracy, mail & wire fraud & the sale of misbranded food, among other convictions.