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Ga. plant manager says mold, mildew at processor


ALBANY, Ga. (AP) - A Georgia food processor linked to a deadly salmonella outbreak shipped thousands of pounds of peanut products after learning its products were contaminated and cheated on testing, a former plant manager testified Monday.

Samuel Lightsey is a key government witness against his former boss, Peanut Corporation of America owner Stewart Parnell, and two others.

He described documents to jurors that show Peanut Corporation shipped peanuts to companies in Missouri, Illinois and other points after receiving laboratory warnings that product samples had tested positive for salmonella. In other instances, the company cheated on safety testing by switching samples, Lightsey said.

In one instance, company records from September 2007 show the firm requested testing on a sample of peanut paste made for Kellogg's before plant workers actually made the paste. Lightsey said company workers had pulled a sample from an earlier batch. Prosecutor Patrick Hearn asked whether the company could have known whether those products were safe.

"They would have not known unless they had additional samples pulled," Lightsey said.

Manager Makes Second Shocking Confession

The 2008-09 salmonella outbreak caused one of the largest food recalls in U.S. history. Food safety investigators found more than 700 people across the country were infected and nine people died - three in Minnesota, two in Ohio, two in Virginia, one in Idaho and one in North Carolina.

Lightsey examined photographs showing evidence of water leaks and described sanitation problems inside the plant. Salmonella can be spread when outside water carrying contaminants seeps into a food processing facility. The photographs showed what Lightsey described as mold and mildew, water stains under a vent in a packaging room and condensation around plant fans. Lightsey said workers kept a pellet gun inside the facility so they could shoot birds that got inside.

"There was multiple areas in the plant that were leaking," said Lightsey, who explained workers would cover food products with plastic to keep them dry.

Prosecutors accuse Parnell and his brother and food broker, Michael Parnell, of shipping contaminated peanut products used in foods including peanut butter crackers, ice cream and candied apples. They also say the brothers covered up tests that confirmed the presence of salmonella in their shipments. Stewart Parnell and the Georgia plant's quality assurance manager, Mary Wilkerson, are also charged with obstructing justice.

Defense attorneys have not yet started questioning Lightsey, who pleaded guilty to seven criminal counts in May and agreed to testify in exchange for a lighter sentence. Stewart Parnell's attorneys have said he has been blamed for mistakes made by his employees.

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faithrada August 11 2014 at 6:13 PM

People here NEED to go to jail... for Murder. Otherwise all these hard won laws to protect us are just a joke.

Flag Reply +25 rate up
pbjclv August 11 2014 at 5:56 PM

What do you want to bet that all the senior management still get their bonuses. People get sick and some even die, but everybody still gets that bonus.

Flag Reply +23 rate up
6 replies
Maire1 August 11 2014 at 6:09 PM

Hopefully if guilty the sentence will contain significant prison time

Flag Reply +19 rate up
1 reply
dgoffnspector Maire1 August 11 2014 at 9:58 PM

Corporations are only people, when it comes to buying elections, and forcing religion on subordinates. Not when it comes to being punished for criminal actions.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
mumsy13 August 11 2014 at 5:53 PM

I ate some of this peanut butter and ended up in the ER. I never sued because I have another gastrointestinal condition. But later after I heard about the recall I checked the numbers on the jar matched the recalled peanut butter. I was lucky, I did not eat much of the product. I can tell you it was no joke, I felt terrible for a few days. I have been following this story and am certainly disgusted with the gross criminal negligence these people committed. I have no sympathy for them. People died from their combined lack of responsibility.

Flag Reply +18 rate up
5 replies
mennis0852 August 11 2014 at 5:51 PM

America has had many companies that have put profit before service to their customers. Maybe our business schools should have classes in the responsibility of management towards their customers and less on the maximizing of profits for the owners.

Flag Reply +16 rate up
2 replies
liquidwallpaper mennis0852 August 11 2014 at 6:58 PM

We need to kick lobbyist out of Washington where they get the laws to protect companies that commit these crimes off the hook.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
1 reply
Craigermt liquidwallpaper August 11 2014 at 8:09 PM

Just remember the group that has the most lobbyists in DC is the AARP.

Flag 0 rate up
Craigermt mennis0852 August 11 2014 at 10:25 PM

I read a story a while back on a man and his wife that donated $25 million to their alma mater, 7 years ago, with the understanding the university would build a wing and start a program that promoted proper ethics in business management. After 4 years and nothing happened, no wing nor any classes for such and after they complained, they sued for the return of their gift. The university was fighting giving back the money even though they did nothing to earn the gift. Companies are not the only ones that do what they want when they want. Kinda like the federal government.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
lov2elkhnt August 11 2014 at 5:39 PM

How does a food handler kill or hurt it's customers and violate public trust and confidence in their product for profit and end up just getting fined? The fine being micro percent off each dollar and yet no one is in jail? No jailtime charges have been filed, nothing but blabber from hearings and no one's in a holding cell awaiting trial for murder and assault? Nice laws and upholding even weak laws, huh America and world?

Flag Reply +15 rate up
5 replies
ram4131 August 11 2014 at 7:45 PM

Should be treated NO differently than someone who purposely put poison in your food.

Flag Reply +12 rate up
thefosz August 11 2014 at 6:28 PM

This is just the way a Southern company operates in the South. And, the Republican Party stands by them 100 %. It's to bad they just happen to caught.

Flag Reply +9 rate up
8 replies
higgdj7 August 11 2014 at 6:54 PM

Next time the GOP tells you regulations are hurting Business and killing jobs, remember this article. We cannot rely on Business to police itself because profits rule! Nothing else matters. All regulations are a result of past bad practices.

Flag Reply +9 rate up
1 reply
lbrady1234 higgdj7 August 12 2014 at 12:06 AM

Hey higgdj7, the Federal government, under the Clinton Admin. was responsible for cutting back FDA/USDA personnel to the point that the Feds allowed all food processors to self inspect and only once per year would FDA/USDA would make plant visit to go over their self inspections. Know the facts before you start blowing off your mouth. I worked in the chemical sanitation industry for 30 years and some plants are very guilty ignoring clean sanitation practices but the Federal government doesn't get high marks for doing their job either. Name 1 government program, just 1 that deserves a passing grade, please?

Flag Reply +1 rate up
Richard August 11 2014 at 6:06 PM

Is Jimmy Carter, and his brother associated with this company?

Flag Reply +7 rate up
1 reply
John Roberson Richard August 11 2014 at 6:49 PM

probably his company did the same thing, but he pardoned himself and of course, he said he was guilty beforehand as he said in Playboy!!!!

Flag Reply +1 rate up
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