Samuel Lightsey, who formerly managed the Peanut Corp. of America, which
was implicated in a 2008-2009 nationwide Salmonella outbreak, has entered
a guilty plea to six of 76 criminal charges, including conspiracy, mail and wire
fraud, obstruction of justice, and other counts related to the distribution of
adulterated or misbranded food. U.S. v. Lightsey, No. 13-CR-12 (M.D. Ga., Albany Div., plea entered May 7, 2014). Facing a potential sentence of six years in prison, Lightsey has agreed to cooperate with the prosecution. The outbreak sickened more than 700 who consumed products containing tainted peanut paste, and at least nine died.

According to the plea agreement, in September 2008, Lightsey and others
shipped a lot of peanut paste from the company’s Blakely, Georgia, facility
“without ever having submitted a sample from said lot to a laboratory for
microbiological testing.” This food was misbranded because it was accompanied by a document containing test results “from a previously manufactured lot of peanut paste.” It was adulterated because it contained Salmonella. The agreement also states that, after the outbreak was traced to the Blakely facility and U.S. Food and Drug Administration inspectors sought production of relevant records, Lightsey and another employee concealed and withheld from the agency a log listing “the sample numbers of all samples of peanut products submitted for microbiological testing during calendar year 2008.”

The agreement mentions former owner Stewart Parnell in connection with
particular email transmissions about changing peanut-paste specifications
for a customer. Information on proceedings about whether Parnell’s expert
witness’s testimony—proffered as to Parnell’s ability to form the intent to
commit the alleged crimes—is admissible under Daubert v. Merrell Dow
Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993), appears in Issue 517 of this Update.


Issue 523

About The Author

For decades, manufacturers, distributors and retailers at every link in the food chain have come to Shook, Hardy & Bacon to partner with a legal team that understands the issues they face in today's evolving food production industry. Shook attorneys work with some of the world's largest food, beverage and agribusiness companies to establish preventative measures, conduct internal audits, develop public relations strategies, and advance tort reform initiatives.