ALBANY, GA (WALB) -
A second expert on food safety testing will continue his testimony tomorrow in that salmonella outbreak trail now in its second week in Albany. The first expert made it clear Monday any failed test must be taken seriously.
The jury went home about 2:00 after hearing from Dr. Darlene Cowart and Dr. Charles Deibel.
They were the presidents of two labs responsible for testing Peanut Corporation of America's products when a salmonella outbreak traced to the company's Blakely plant killed at least nine people five years ago.
Dr. Darlene Cowart's testimony ended with a powerful quote that seemed to get the jury's attention. Defense lawyers asked if a company should throw out all of a product if 100 tests on the batch are clean and one comes back tainted. Cowart said "You can't take a risk on public health. Period."
Prosecutors quickly wrapped up their direct examination of Cowart this morning after she confirmed that positive salmonella tests from PCA products had been recorded at her lab, J Leek Associates.
Stewart Parnell's defense team went down a checklist of issues brought up during the prosecution's opening Statements.
They questioned the validity of salmonella testing results. Defense lawyer Scott Austin used statistics from a food safety journal to show that results could be wrong up to 9%.
He pointed out that JLA tested more than 3,500 PCA samples from 2007 to 2008 and only 12 of those, .33%, came back positive.
Austin built upon comments made in the defense's opening that Parnell was left out to dry by people he hired. Documents provided by JLA show that the Blakely plant's owner wasn't the contact for test results. Instead it was the plant manager.
Deibel repeated much of what Cowart said, but added any food processing plant should shut down and clean after a positive salmonella test.
He ended by saying good manufacturing facilities may fail one test every 5 to 10 years.
Lawyers for the other two defendants, Michael Parnell and Mary Wilkerson, did not give opening statements Friday. They did question Dr. Cowart Monday, but the focus so far has been on PCA owner Stewart Parnell.