The south Georgia peanut company knew its products were tainted with salmonella but sold them anyway, federal officials say. And, they say, when investigators tracked a 2009 salmonella outbreak that killed nine and sickened more than 700 in 42 states to the Peanut Corporation of America plant, company officials lied.
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Shortly after the salmonella outbreak spread across the country in early 2009 and killed nine people, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation revealed that as far back as 2007, Peanut Corp. of America’s Blakely, Ga. plant had shipped tainted products, even after tests showed contamination. The AJC has since followed the aftermath — from how the victims are coping to how the outbreak spurred a series of tougher inspection procedures. The AJC will continue following this story.
How it unfolded
A Georgia peanut processor is linked to nine deaths, but the aftermath includes tougher food safety laws
Jan. 14, 2009 A salmonella outbreak is for the first time traced to a Blakely, Ga. processing plant owned by Peanut Corp. of America.
Jan. 26, 2009 State inspection reports obtained by the AJC show the processing plant had a history of serious health.
Feb. 11, 2009 Peanut Corp. President Stewart Parnell and Sammy Lightsey, manager of the South Georgia plant, refuse to answer questions from a U.S. House panel investigating the salmonella outbreak, invoking their Fifth Amendment right not to present self-incriminating evidence.
Feb. 13, 2009 Peanut Corp. files for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Lynchburg, Va.
March 10, 2009 State food safety officials implemented the first-ever guidelines for inspections of peanut processing plants in Georgia
Jan. 30, 2010 It is announced that about 120 victims of the salmonella outbreak will split $12 million as part of a settlement with the insurer of Peanut Corp.
Jan. 4, 2011 President Obama signs a food safety bill that gives the federal government new powers, including ordering — instead of suggesting — food recalls. Hysteria over the salmonella outbreak helped pushed the bill through Congress.
Feb. 21, 2011 Federal investigators announce criminal indictments against five Peanut Corp. employee for their roles in willfully selling tainted products and falsifying documents to cover it up.
Federal investigators unsealed a criminal indictment against five Peanut Corp. of America employees for their actions before and after the 2009 salmonella outbreak.
Stewart Parnell was an owner and president of Peanut Corp. He was charged with conspiracy and fraud for knowingly shipping tainted food.
Michael Parnell was a food broker who worked on behalf of Peanut Corp. He was charged with conspiracy and fraud for knowingly shipping tainted food.
Samuel Lightsey managed the Blakely plant from July 2008-February 2009. He was charged with conspiracy and fraud for knowingly shipping tainted food.
Daniel Kilgore was operations manager at the Blakely plant from June 2002-May 2008. He was charged with conspiracy and fraud for knowingly shipping tainted food.
Mary Wilkerson was quality assurance manager at the Blakely plant. She was chared with obstruction of justice.