WASHINGTON, Feb. 22 (UPI) -- The former owner and three ex-employees at a Georgia peanut plant were indicted on charges linked to a deadly 2008-09 salmonella outbreak, authorities said.
A 76-count indictment charges Stewart Parnell, who owned the Peanut Corporation of America, with fraud, conspiracy, obstruction of justice and other offenses, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Thursday.
Parnell's brother, Michael, a company vice president; Samuel Lightsey, who was a plant manager; and Mary Wilkerson, a quality assurance manager; were also named in the indictment, the report said.
"We are pleased that the Department of Justice has indicted this company's former owner and other former PCA officials," the Center for Science in the Public Interest said in a statement.
"Today's indictment should send a powerful signal to food industry officials that they and their companies could suffer severe consequences if they recklessly put consumers at risk of a food-borne illness," it said.
"Corporate disregard for food safety is a serious crime, especially when it leads to deaths. The behavior of the Peanut Corporation of America in 2009 clearly warranted criminal prosecution. At least nine people died and hundreds were sickened by salmonella-contaminated products coming out of this filthy Georgia plant."