Stewart Parnell, the former owner of Peanut Corp. of America, is among those being charged. The 76-count indictment also charges Michael Parnell, who is Stewart Parnell’s brother and a former supervisor; Samuel Lightsey, a onetime plant operator; and Mary Wilkerson, a former quality-assurance manager, in connection with the food poisoning.
I have developed a friendship with many of Stewart Parnell’s victims of the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) Salmonella outbreak of 2009. Many of them attended a press conference in 2011, where they asked why after two years Parnell was still free? Re-reading internal emails from PCA from 2008 and 2009, I had to ask why too?
“Turn them loose,” Parnell had told his plant manager in an internal e-mail disclosed at the House hearing. The e-mail referred to products that once were deemed contaminated but were cleared in a second test last year.
Parnell ordered products identified with salmonella to be shipped and quoting his complaints that tests discovering the contaminated food were “costing us huge $$$$$.”
Parnell insisted that the outbreak did not start at his plant, calling that a misunderstanding by the media and public health officials. “No salmonella has been found anywhere else in our products, or in our plants, or in any unopened containers of our product.”
Parnell complained to a worker after they notified him that salmonella had been found in more products. “I go thru this about once a week,” he wrote in a June 2008 e-mail. “I will hold my breath ………. again.”
According to early press reports, it look like Parnell and other are being brought to justice.
According to the CDC, 714 persons infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium were reported from 46 states. The number of ill persons identified in each state was as follows: Alabama (2), Arizona (14), Arkansas (6), California (81), Colorado (18), Connecticut (11), Florida (1), Georgia (6), Hawaii (6), Idaho (17), Illinois (12), Indiana (11), Iowa (3), Kansas (2), Kentucky (3), Louisiana (1), Maine (5), Maryland (11), Massachusetts (49), Michigan (38), Minnesota (44), Missouri (15), Mississippi (7), Montana (2), Nebraska (1), New Hampshire (14), New Jersey (24), New York (34), Nevada (7), North Carolina (6), North Dakota (17), Ohio (102), Oklahoma (4), Oregon (15), Pennsylvania (19), Rhode Island (5), South Dakota (4), Tennessee (14), Texas (10), Utah (8), Vermont (4), Virginia (24), Washington (25), West Virginia (2), Wisconsin (5), and Wyoming (2). Additionally, one ill person was reported from Canada.
The CDC went on to state that among the persons with confirmed, reported dates available, illnesses began between September 1, 2008 and March 31, 2009. Patients ranged in age from <1 to 98 years. The median age of patients was 16 years which means that half of ill persons were younger than 16 years. 21% were age <5 years, 17% were >59 years. 48% of patients were female. Among persons with available information, 24% reported being hospitalized. Infection contributed to nine deaths: Idaho (1), Minnesota (3), North Carolina (1), Ohio (2), and Virginia (2).