Owner of peanut butter manufacturer indicted for salmonella cover-up

The former owner of a Georgia peanut processing company has been indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice for knowingly selling peanut products contaminated with salmonella.

According to a recent report in the Wall Street Journal, Stewart Parnell, the owner of Peanut Corporation of America, allegedly engaged with other company employees in a multi-year conspiracy to hide the contamination problem from its producer customers. Tainted peanut butter and peanut paste from Peanut Corporation facilities was eventually used as an ingredient in thousands of products, ranging from cookies and crackers to pet food.

Prosecutors in the case allege that Peanut Corporation failed to notify its customers of the problem, even after independent laboratory tests confirmed the presence of salmonella. Company officials also allegedly fabricated test results, or claimed that their products were salmonella-free despite testing results to the contrary.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that nine people died and hundreds more became sick in 2009 after eating products containing peanut butter and other peanut ingredients that originated from Peanut Corporation facilities. The outbreak also led to the recall of more than 2000 food products, and spurred action by the Congress to strengthen the enforcement authority of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Parnell was indicted on 76 separate counts, including conspiracy, wire fraud, obstruction of justice and introducing adulterated food into the market.

Read the complete text of the Wall Street Journal article regarding the indictment of the former owner of the Georgia peanut processing company for knowingly selling peanut products contaminated with salmonella.