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Salmonella outbreak culprit faces lifetime in prison


The former CEO of Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) faces the possibility of being sentenced to life in prison after covering up a salmonella outbreak at his plant, Time reports.

The outbreak resulted in hundreds of sick Americans and at least nine deaths.

Stewart Parnell knew about a salmonella contamination at his plant, yet he covered it up and ordered PCA to continue shipments of salmonella-tainted peanut paste used to manufacture a variety of products.

Federal inspectors found roaches, rats, mold, dirt, accumulated grease and bird droppings when they conducted a raid at Parnell's factory.

If Parnell goes to prison for life, it will be the most severe penalty ever given to a person involved in a food safety case. His brother and food broker, Michael Parnell, faces 17 years in prison, and a plant manager, Mary Wilkerson, could be in prison for five years.

Federal and state disease detectives connected the deaths of nine people to PCA's peanut processing plant in Blakely, Georgia, while 714 people in 46 states were sickened, some critically, CNN reports.

Last year, a jury in Georgia convicted Parnell on 72 counts of conspiracy, fraud and other charges.

"Our government seems to be sending a clear message that poisoning your customers may well land you in jail," Bill Marler, a Seattle food safety lawyer who represented several victims of the outbreak, told CNN.

Salmonella flourishes in the intestines of birds and can be found in fruits and vegetables and in ingredients made from them. 

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