Food Safety Magazine

News | March 5, 2013

PCA Executives Indicted in Salmonella Peanut Butter Outbreak

By Staff

After more than 4 years, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that a 76-count indictment was filed, charging four former officials of the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) and a related company for selling Salmonella-contaminated peanut butter products blamed for a nationwide Salmonella outbreak in 2009 that killed 9 people and sickened more than 700.

Former PCA owner and president Stewart Parnell, of Lynchburg, VA, and three other former company leaders, were charged with mail and wire fraud, the introduction of adulterated and misbranded food into interstate commerce with the intent to defraud or mislead, and conspiracy. Stewart Parnell and two others were also charged with obstruction of justice.

The investigation into the activity at PCA began in 2009, after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention traced a national outbreak of Salmonella to a PCA plant in Blakely, GA. As alleged in the indictment, the Blakely plant was a peanut roasting facility, where PCA roasted raw peanuts and produced granulated peanuts, peanut butter and peanut paste; PCA sold these peanut products to its customers around the country.
“When those responsible for producing or supplying our food lie and cut corners, as alleged in the indictment, they put all of us at risk,” said Stuart F. Delery, who heads the Justice Department’s Civil Division.

“We all place a great deal of trust in the companies and individuals who prepare and package our food, often times taking it for granted that the public’s health and safety interests will outweigh individual and corporate greed,” said Michael Moore, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia. “Unfortunately and as alleged in the indictment, these defendants cared less about the quality of the food they were providing to the American people and more about the quantity of money they were gathering while disregarding food safety. This investigation was complex and extensive, and I credit the cooperation of our federal agencies with not only making sure that the cause of this outbreak was uncovered and the people responsible called to account, but also with working hard every day to make sure that parents across the country can feel confident that the food they are feeding their children is safe.”