Pros­e­cu­tor: Plant owner OK’d tainted peanut sales

The Covington News - - THE WIRE -

AL­BANY, Ga. (AP) — The owner of a Ge­or­gia peanut plant where a deadly sal­mo­nella out­break orig­i­nated five years ago ap­proved sales of tainted food “what­ever the risk,” in­clud­ing ship­ments known to have tested pos­i­tive for the bac­te­ria and oth­ers sent with fake lab re­sults and no real con­fir­ma­tion the prod­ucts were safe to eat, a pros­e­cu­tor told jurors dur­ing clos­ing ar­gu­ments in the food-poi­son­ing trial Thurs­day.

For­mer Peanut Cor­po­ra­tion owner Ste­wart Par­nell and two co-de­fen­dants have been on trial in U.S. Dis­trict Court since Aug. 1. Now, after more than five weeks of tes­ti­mony from nearly 50 wit­nesses, plus an es­ti­mated 1,000 doc­u­ments in­tro­duced as ev­i­dence, the jury will soon de­cide whether the de­fen­dants com­mit­ted crimes that led to one of the largest food re­calls in U.S. his­tory.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors con­cluded nine peo­ple died from sal­mo­nella lurk­ing in food traced back to the company’s plant in ru­ral Blakely, and 714 got sick. Ex­perts say it’s the first time food pro­ces­sors have stood trial in fed­eral court in a food poi­son­ing case.

Pros­e­cu­tors say Par­nell and his brother, food bro­ker Michael Par­nell, shipped peanuts and peanut but­ter they knew had tested pos­i­tive for sal­mo­nella to cus­tomers that used them as in­gre­di­ents in prod­ucts from peanut but­ter crack­ers to pet food. The Par­nell brothers are also charged with fak­ing lab re­sults for sal­mo­nella and other con­tam­i­nants so they wouldn’t have to wait for real test­ing.

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