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Peanut Corporation of America Peanut Butter Salmonella Outbreak

At least 714 people became ill with Salmonella infections and 9 died after eating Salmonella-contaminated peanut products manufactured by Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) and companies that used PCA peanut products as ingredients in 2008 and 2009.

The first peanut-related recalls were for the commercially-distributed peanut butter, but on January 16, 2009, Kellogg's issued a recall of products made with peanut paste, including cracker sandwiches and cookies.

On January 17, 2009, Bill Marler called on the FDA to take additional steps to hasten the removal of potentially contaminated products from the marketplace.

Shortly thereafter, the FDA recommended that consumers "postpone" consuming peanut butter products. Many companies issued peanut-product recalls. On January 28th, the Peanut Corporation of America initiated a recall of all products manufactured in its Blakely, GA plant since January, 2007. After Salmonella was found at PCA's Plainview, TX plant, production from that plant was added to the massive recall. More than 2800 products were recalled.

The Marler Clark law firm filed a total of 9 lawsuits on behalf of outbreak victims, and represented over 100 clients in Salmonella cases against PCA. Two families represented by Marler Clark testified in front of the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation on February 11, 2009.

On February 13, PCA declared Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The lawsuits were finally resolved after multi-party complex litigation.

In a rare criminal action, the U.S. Justice Department announced on February 21, 2013 that PCA officials and a broker had been indicted for their actions before and during the PCA Salmonella outbreak. In a press release, the Justice Department stated:

The charging documents charge that Stewart Parnell, Michael Parnell, Lightsey and Kilgore participated in a scheme to manufacture and ship salmonella-contaminated peanuts and peanut products, and in so doing misled PCA customers. about the existence of foodborne pathogens, most notably salmonella, in the peanut products PCA sold to them. As the charging documents allege, the members of the conspiracy did so in several ways – for example, even when laboratory testing revealed the presence of salmonella in peanut products from the Blakely plant, Stewart Parnell, Michael Parnell, Lightsey and Kilgore failed to notify customers of the presence of salmonella in the products shipped to them.

Bill Marler of Marler Clark, who represented over 100 PCA Salmonella outbreak victims, commented on the indictment:

“These indictments will have a far reaching impact on the food industry. Corporate executives and directors of food safety will need to think hard about the safety of their product when it enters the stream of commerce. Felony counts like this one are rare, but misdemeanor charges that can include fines AND jail time can and should happen.
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