ALBANY, Ga. (AP) — Jurors at the nation’s first federal criminal trial stemming from a deadly outbreak of food-borne illness are learning a disconcerting fact: America’s food safety largely depends on the honor system.
Witnesses say Stewart Parnell and others at Peanut Corporation of America knowingly shipped salmonella-tainted products, and that they sent customers lab results from other clean batches rather than wait for tests to confirm their products were free of deadly bacteria.
Defense lawyers correctly noted for the jurors that salmonella tests aren’t even required by federal law.
Parnell and his two co-defendants face long prison sentences if convicted of knowingly shipping the contaminated peanut products linked to a nationwide salmonella outbreak that killed nine people and sickened 714 across 43 states in 2008 and 2009.
Their plant in rural Blakely, Georgia, was shut down and the company went bankrupt. Long after consumers ate contaminated peanut butter, ice cream, energy bars and other products, the outbreak prompted one of the largest food recalls in U.S. history.