Prosecutors are wrapping up their case against the owner of a Georgia peanut plant linked to a deadly salmonella outbreak, saying he knowingly approved shipments of tainted food “whatever the risk.”
Jurors began hearing closing arguments Thursday in the five-week federal trial of former Peanut Corporation of America owner Stewart Parnell and two others charged with covering up lab tests that found salmonella in peanuts and peanut butter. The company’s products are blamed for killing nine Americans and making 714 others sick in 2008 and 2009.
Defense attorneys took barely an hour Wednesday to rest their cases after more than a month of prosecution testimony.
Jurors in the Salmonella trial heard from the first witness who had direct contact with two of the defendants Tuesday. A Food and Drug Administration investigator testified about what she found inside a Blakely peanut plant.
After the CDC traced a salmonella outbreak to King Nut Peanut Butter made in Blakely, FDA investigator Janet Gray was sent to the plant.
She testified that plant officials hindered the investigation by covering up what they knew about Salmonella tests. Janet Gray spent more than three hours on the stand today.
The FDA sent Gray to Blakely after the deadly salmonella outbreak was traced back to products from the Peanut Corporation of America plant there.
She says Samuel Lightsey, the former plant manager who pleaded guilty to charges in this case, told here the plant only failed one salmonella test, but a retest came back negative.
With prosecutors questioning, Gray explained a diagram that she drew while investigating PCA’s manufacturing practices, it was the jury’s first look inside the plant.
As the FDA’s investigation continued in early 2009, Lightsey let on about a few more positive tests. Gray said PCA initially hid those results which prevented the FDA from broadening their investigation that only focused on peanut butter at the time.
Lightsey said Stewart Parnell and Mary Wilkerson would know about other positives because they had been there longer.
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An investigation is under way at a U.K. hospital after 10 staff who took part in a food trial were struck down with illness.
Eight of the catering team at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness received treatment in the accident and emergency department.
The workers were testing a new food product aimed at patients with swallowing difficulties, such as stroke victims and dementia sufferers.
Symptoms ranged from temporary loss of vision to facial inflammation. None of the staff was detained in hospital and all are now back at work. No patients were affected and the kitchens were not shut down. It is believed that the illness was not food-related, a spokeswoman for NHS Highland said. The food packaging is the suspected source of the illnesses.
A source, who wished to remain anonymous, said: "Some had lost their vision because their eyes were so swollen, they couldn’t open them. It must have been frightening."
"I am surprised the kitchen was not closed down for a while to find out what was going on," the source added.
Raigmore has 577 beds and employs around 3,200 staff. The catering department has 60 staff who provide 2,500 meals a day to patients, staff and visitors.