ALBANY, Ga. (AP) — Four people charged in connection with a 2009 salmonella outbreak in peanuts that killed nine and sickened hundreds pleaded not guilty Thursday to all charges.
Peanut Corporation of America owner Stewart Parnell, his food broker brother Michael Parnell, Georgia plant manager Samuel Lightsey and Georgia plant quality assurance manager Mary Wilkerson entered their pleas in a south Georgia federal court.
A 76-count indictment charges the four defendants in a scheme to manufacture and ship salmonella-tainted peanuts.
The outbreak caused one of the largest recalls in history and prompted the government to file criminal charges, rarely pursued in food poisoning cases because intentional contamination is difficult to prove.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Langstaff set bond at $100,000 each for the Parnell brothers, $50,000 for Lightsey and $25,000 for Wilkerson. The defendants and their family members, who attended Thursday's hearing, did not speak to reporters.
The case next goes to U.S. District Judge W. Louis Sands. A trial date has yet to be set.
Among the various charges are conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud and the introduction of adulterated and misbranded food into interstate commerce with the intent to defraud or mislead.