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Friday, March 1, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Peanut Executives Jailed in Salmonella Case

(CN) - Two former peanut plant managers were given three and six-year prison sentences for shipping salmonella-laced products and falsifying food test results, the Justice Department said Thursday.

Samuel Lightsey, 50, and Daniel Kilgore, 46, were operations managers at Peanut Corp. of America's Blakely, Ga. plant, where both men are from. The now-closed PCA roasted raw peanuts and made granulated peanuts, peanut butter and peanut paste at the Blakely plant.

The federal government investigated a national salmonella outbreak in 2009, which led to a 76-count indictment against former PCA officials four years later.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the 2009 outbreak caused more than 700 cases of salmonella poisoning in 46 states. Evidence presented at a 2014 trial of other PCA executives linked the company's products to victims' illnesses.

PCA's former president Stewart Parnell was sentenced to 28 years in prison last week for his role in the salmonella outbreak. That is the largest criminal sentence ever handed down in a food safety case, according to the Justice Department. Parnell's brother, Michael Parnell, was also convicted at trial, along with former PCA quality assurance manager Mary Wilkerson.

The government brought forth evidence during trial that the Parnells, Lightsey and Kilgore fabricated laboratory analysis certificates that were shipped with peanut products to cover up the presence of salmonella in their food, the Justice Department said. The certificates apparently said the food was free of pathogens when no tests were conducted or products tested positive for pathogens.

Parnell, Lightsey and Wilkerson also lied to investigators when they came to the Blakely plant, the government said.

The two former plant managers were sentenced Thursday in Albany, Ga. for charges including conspiracy, fraud and selling adulterated food. Lightsey was sentenced to 36 months in prison while Kilgore was given 72 months. Both sentences include three years of supervised release after prison.

Michael Parnell was sentenced to 20 years in prison on Sept. 21 and Wilkerson was given five years.

PCA customers ranged from small, family-owned businesses to global food companies, according to the Justice Department.

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