The former boss of a peanut company has been jailed for 28 years, following a US-wide salmonella outbreak that was linked to nine deaths, Sky News reports. Stewart Parnell was convicted last year of knowingly shipping food tainted with the bacteria and of faking laboratory records which testified his products were safe to eat.
The major outbreak from the Peanut Corporation of America plant in 2008 and 2009 also left hundreds of Americans sick. This is thought to be the most severe punishment ever handed to a producer in a foodborne illness case – Parnell had been facing a maximum of 803 years behind bars.
Two other people were also jailed for their roles in the major food scare, which triggered one of the largest recalls in American history. Parnell’s brother Michael was sentenced for 20 years, while the quality control manager at the factory, Mary Wilkerson, was handed a five-year jail term.
A court in Georgia had heard testimony from several victims – including a child who was three years old when he was made severely ill by peanut butter crackers. Jacob Hurley told the judge how he felt it would be OK for Parnell to “spend the rest of his life in prison” for the terror and grief his company had caused families – as they unknowingly consumed peanut butter and other products laced with salmonella.
Prior to the sentencing, Parnell had said he was “truly sorry” that the conditions at his Georgia factory had triggered such a major outbreak. However, the 61-year-old did not mention the emails and other company records which showed he knew the products being manufactured at his plant were tainted.