Seven years ago, an outbreak of salmonella poisoning in peanuts led to 700 people getting sick and left nine dead. Now, the former corporate CEO of the Peanut Corporation of America faces 28 years in prison because of it.
The salmonella outbreak was traced to a factory in Georgia that was run by the Peanut Corporation of America, NPR reports.
While companies have been found to release contaminated foods before, this instance, the company was aware that its product was contaminated prior to shipping it out to consumers. The PCA would allegedly retest batches of peanut products when it came out positive for salmonella until the tests were clean.
Guess they didn’t want to risk losing peanuts over something as trivial as salmonella contamination.
Investigators found one email in particular where a shipment of peanut products was put on hold and awaited results from a contamination test. Stewart Parnell, who was CEO at the time, was emailed about the situation and told the factory:
Just ship it.
This act of negligence, along with other criminal charges of fraud, obstruction of justice and selling adulterated foods all contributed to Parnell’s punishment.
The ground-breaking sentence Parnell faces are the harshest ever given to company executives connected to food-releated illnesses. Along with Parnell’s 28-year sentence, two other executives of the former company face major jail time.
The now-defunct peanut company served a variety of peanut-based products.