Peanut Executives Feel The Crunch Of A Jury Verdict

Posted On Monday, September 29, 2014
By: Douglas K. Rosenblum

After seven weeks of trial and testimony of approximately 45 witnesses, three former officials of Peanut Corp. of America have been convicted of fraud, conspiracy, and obstruction charges related to a 2009 probe of a salmonella outbreak that sickened 700 and killed nine.  This case is one of the first felony prosecutions of food processors under the Federal Food, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act. The last notable prosecution under the Act related to adulterated and mishandled Apple juice in 1988.

The Peanut Executives, including former CEO Stewart Parnell, former Vice President of Sales Michael Parnell, and former Quality Assurance Manager Mary Wilkerson, were convicted of various counts stemming from testing and certification of their peanut paste that was used in peanut butter, cracker sandwiches, cookie dough, granola bars, and dog biscuits.  The prosecution argued that the defendants falsely claimed that their products were not contaminated when the products were either not tested or had tested positive for containing pathogens.  One particularly incriminating piece of evidence introduced by the prosecution was an e-mail by Stewart Parnell, which read in part, “lie about the sales if it saves us money.”

This case is of particular note, because it could be the beginning of a trend in the Justice Department.  Although Attorney General Holder has now announced his impending resignation, Mr. Holder issued a statement on the day of the verdict to proclaim the Justice Department’s dedication to pursuing those who compromise the safety of America’s food supply.

For more information, this case is docketed at 1:13-cr-00012 in the Middle District of Georgia.