A CEO who willingly poisoned hundreds and killed nine throughout 46 states now faces life behind bars. Stewart Parnell, former executive of the Peanut Corporation of America, knew that his company’s peanut butter was contaminated with salmonella, and he still allowed it to be distributed. He and his brother, Michael Parnell, both ignored the risks and in doing so sentenced several people to death.
In total, 714 people were poisoned and nine lost their lives. When the outbreak if poisonings began, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Center for Disease Control (CDC) launched an investigation that led them straight back to the factory in Blakey, Georgia. The tainted peanut butter was recalled. It was one of the largest recalls in U.S. history. And that wasn’t even all they discovered.
The factory that the Parnells were supposed to oversee was invested with rodents and roaches, and the roof was leaking. Emails and records were discovered that showed the company had been fully aware its peanut butter tested positive for salmonella, but deliberately ignored these findingsand doctored documents to make it appear as if batches of peanut butter were completely fine.
The former CEO was convicted on 71 criminal charges in September. These charges included conspiracy, obstruction of justice and the introduction of adulterated food. U.S. District Judge W. Louis Sands sentenced 61-year-old Scott Parnell to life in prison, a 28-year sentence that USA Today reported could be the severest punishment issued in a food contamination case. Rightly so, too.
Parnell’s brother, Michael, was sentenced to 20 years for his role in the case as the broker who approved the distribution. The company’s former quality control manager, Mary Wilkerson, received 5 years in prison for obstruction of justice. In addition to all of this, the Parnell brothers will share the cost of repaying the $200 million in losses suffered by the victims, and Michael Parcell will be made to pay an additional $50 million.
Although the families of the victims could never truly be repaid, it’s a small console to know that the the villians responsible will be behind bars, never be able to conduct such heinous acts of reckless peanut-butter distribution ever again.