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Three Found Guilty in Salmonella Trial

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Image: Stewart Parnell
FILE - In this Thursday, March 12, 2009 file photo, Peanut Corporation of America's president Stewart Parnell, arrives at United States Federal Court in Lynchburg, Va. The nation's first federal criminal trial stemming from a deadly outbreak of food-borne illness is presenting jurors with a disconcerting fact: America's food safety largely depends on the honor system. Witnesses say Parnell and other Peanut Corporation of America workers knowingly shipped salmonella tainted nuts with faked data showing they were clean. Their defense, Salmonella tests aren't even required by law. (AP Photo/Don Petersen, File)Don Petersen / AP

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A federal jury convicted the owner of a peanut plant and two others Friday in connection with a salmonella outbreak that prompted one of the largest U.S. food recalls, sickened hundreds across the country and was linked to nine deaths.

Experts say the trial in Albany, Georgia, marked the first time executives and plant workers were tried in a food poisoning case. Former Peanut Corporation of America owner Stewart Parnell was convicted on counts including conspiracy, wire fraud and obstruction of justice related to shipping tainted peanut butter and faking results of lab tests for salmonella. His brother, Michael Parnell, was found guilty on multiple charges related to the false lab results, and Mary Wilkerson, the plant's quality assurance manager, was found guilty of obstruction of justice for hiding information about the salmonella problems. All three will be sentenced later.

Prosecutors accused the Parnell brothers of shipping tainted peanuts and peanut butter five years ago and covering up lab tests showing positive results for salmonella. Peanut Corporation's products were used as ingredients in crackers and other snacks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 714 people in 46 states were infected and nine people died.

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-The Associated Press

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