In the wake of one of the deadliest salmonella outbreaks, the ex-owner and several workers of a now-closed peanut company have been named in a 76-count indictment that charges fraud and conspiracy, according to The New York Times.
Stewart Parnell, the former owner of Peanut Corp. of America (PCA), was among those charged in the indictment, which legal experts told The Times was very unusual. They said that the government rarely brings criminal charges in food safety cases.
The difference in the PCA case is that authorities believe that Parnell and PCA shipped peanut products that they knew were contaminated around the country, sparking a salmonella outbreak in 2009 that killed nine people and made more than 700 sick, according to The Times. In contrast, most food safety cases involve negligence, unknowingly distributing tainted goods.
Parnell’s defense attorney denied the charges, saying his client did not know that the PCA products were contaminated.
The indictment charges that Parnell, two PCA employees and a broker knew that a lab had found salmonella in peanut products made in the company’s plant in Blakely, Ga., but they did not tell their customers about those test results, The Times reported.
PCA filed for bankruptcy in 2009, and a fifth person has pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the case.