4 charged in salmonella outbreak plead innocent

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 28, 2013 at 5:24 pm •  Published: February 28, 2013

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kenneth Dasher told the court that Stewart Parnell faces a maximum 754 years in prison and $17 million in fines if convicted. His brother Michael faces a maximum 437 years and $10 million.

The indictment said the company misled consumers about salmonella being in its product, even when laboratory tests indicated its presence. It said certificates accompanying some of the peanut shipments were altered to say the peanuts were safe when tests said otherwise.

The indictment also says Stewart Parnell, Lightsey and Wilkerson gave false or misleading statements to federal food investigators who visited the plant as the outbreak was unfolding, resulting in obstruction of justice charges.

The company later went bankrupt.

Investigations are pending into two other large outbreaks in recent years — an outbreak of salmonella in eggs in 2010 and an outbreak of listeria in cantaloupe in 2011 that was linked to more than 30 deaths.

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Rosica reported from Albany and Brumback from Atlanta.