Peanut Processors Face Criminal Charges

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Justice released a 76-count indictment Thursday charging former employees of the peanut company linked to a 2009 salmonella outbreak thought to be responsible for nine deaths.

The now defunct Peanut Corporation of America processed peanuts under unsanitary conditions and knowingly sold tainted products to food producers throughout the country, charges the DOJ.

Some officials continued to violate the law through the beginning of the Food and Drug Administration’s investigation of the outbreak by providing false or misleading information, according to the indictment.

Defendants including owner Stewart Parnell are charged with conspiracy, fraud and obstructing justice as part of a multi-year plot to hide the fact that products were tainted.

Consumer advocacy groups like the National Consumer League are praising the DOJ’s efforts.

“We are gratified that the DOJ has decided to take legal action against PCA, a company responsible for sickening hundreds of consumers,” said Sally Greenberg, executive director of the NCL, in a statement. “When food manufacturers choose to disregard food safety rules, ignore evidence that their products are dangerous and as a result consumers become ill and even die, they should be held responsible in a court of law.”

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