Parnell, the former CEO of the peanut processing company Peanut Corporation of America (PCA), could have gone to prison for life, according to federal calculations.
The salmonella outbreak caused by his products killed nine people and sickened more than 700 others in 2009.
The 61-year-old Parnell’s criminal sentence is believed to be the largest in a food safety case.
PCA owner Stewart Parnell, food broker Michael Parnell, and the plant’s quality assurance manager, Mary Wilkerson, were all eventually linked to the salmonella outbreak.
Stewart Parnell’s sentence is the longest in the history of food-borne illnesses involving food production. This is commonly and accurately referred to as greed.By all accounts, Mondays sentencing hearing in a federal courthouse in Albany, Georgia, overflowed with emotion on both sides.Families of victims poisoned by salmonella after eating products from Parnells company urged a judge to impose the stiffest possible sentence.
“They lost their income, all their material things and worst of all their pride”, she said.
Minnesotan Jeff Almer told the court his 72-year-old mother Shirley Mae Almer of Perham was battling back from cancer when she died in December 2008 after eating peanut butter from Parnell’s plant.
“I am personally embarrassed, humiliated, and morally disgraced by what happened”, Stewart Parnell said on Monday, per the Associated Press.
During the trial, prosecutors said the brothers covered up the presence of salmonella in their company’s peanut products for years, even creating fake certificates showing they were uncontaminated despite laboratory results showing otherwise. And, unfortunately, antibiotic treatment that people may undergo for salmonella poisoning won’t stop the arthritis from developing.
But the loved ones of those who died asked that Parnell pay for his deeds.
Lawyers for the Parnells argued the brother never knowingly endangered customers, but an order filed on Friday by US District Court Judge W. Louis Sands called that assertion by the defense into question. “It has been a seven-year nightmare for me and my family”.
The AP also details the conditions of the Peanut Corporation plant.
When Food and Drug Administration officials descended on the plant where Parnell got his peanuts, they were met by a litany of health and sanitary violations that included mold, roaches, filthy equipment, holes big enough for rodents to gain access and the mixing of raw and cooked products. Stewart Parnell’s daughter, Grey Parnell, said that her own family ate the peanuts regularly, which should prove that there was no intended harm toward the public.
Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond law professor, said Parnell’s sentence will make corporate executives think twice before engaging in wrongful activities. The roofs leaked, the windows would be open, and birds would fly through the building…it was just a time bomb waiting to go off, and everybody in the peanut industry in Georgia, Virginia and Texas – they all knew.