A federal judge sentenced former peanut company executive Stewart Parnell to 28 years in prison on Monday, a year after he was convicted of 71 criminal counts of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and introduction of adulterated food.
The 61-year-old is the former head of the now-defunct Peanut Corporation of America. In 2009, the FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention traced a salmonella outbreak that sickened 714 people in 46 states back to Parnell's peanut roasting plant in Blakely, Georgia. The CDC says the outbreak may have contributed to the deaths of nine people, and the product recall was one of the largest in U.S. history.
During the trial, prosecutors showed evidence that the processing facility had a leaky roof, roaches, and signs of rodents, conditions that breed salmonella, USA Today reports. They also presented emails and records showing that products which tested positive for salmonella were sent to customers, and peanut batches that were not tested were shipped out with fraudulent lab records saying they tested negative for salmonella. The peanuts were used in a variety of products by major manufacturers, including Kellogg's. Parnell's brother, Michael Parnell, a broker who supplied Kellogg's with peanut paste from the company, was sentenced to 20 years. Former quality control manager Mary Wilkerson, 41, was sentenced to five years after being found guilty of obstruction.