In 2009, over 700 people were sickened and nine died from Salmonella Typhimurium linked to peanut paste and butter produced by the Peanut Corporation of America.
An auditor with the Manhattan, Kansas, based American Institute of Baking was responsible for evaluating the safety of products produced by PCA. The peanut company knew in advance when the auditors were arriving. “The overall food safety level of this facility was considered to be: SUPERIOR,” the auditor concluded in his March 27, 2008, report for AIB. State inspectors also found only minor problems.
Samuel Lightsey was the manager of Peanut Corporation of America’s plant in Blakely, Georgia, when an outbreak of salmonella traced to the company’s peanuts killed nine people and sickened hundreds in 2009. Lightsey and three others were later charged with scheming to manufacture and ship tainted peanuts.
Lightsey faces a possible fine of up to $250,000 and maximum prison terms of one to 20 years on each of the seven charges. Prosecutors recommended in a plea agreement that Lightsey serve no more than six years in prison. He will be sentenced at a later date.
Also charged in the case are Peanut Corporation owner Stewart Parnell, his food broker brother Michael Parnell, and Georgia plant quality assurance manager Mary Wilkerson.
The indictment unsealed in February 2013 says the company misled its customers about the existence of salmonella in its product, even when lab tests showed it was present. It says the co-workers even fabricated certificates accompanying some of the peanut shipments saying they were safe when tests said otherwise.
The company later went bankrupt.