Jurors hear from FDA investigator in salmonella trial
ALBANY, GA (WALB) -
Jurors in the salmonella trial heard from the first witness who had direct contact with two of the defendants Tuesday. A Food and Drug Administration investigator testified about what she found inside a Blakely peanut plant.
After the CDC traced a salmonella outbreak to King Nut Peanut Butter made in Blakely, FDA investigator Janet Gray was sent to the plant.
She testified that plant officials hindered the investigation by covering up what they knew about salmonella tests. Janet Gray spent more than three hours on the stand today.
The FDA sent Gray to Blakely after the deadly salmonella outbreak was traced back to products from the Peanut Corporation of America plant there.
She says Samuel Lightsey, the former plant manager who pleaded guilty to charges in this case, told here the plant only failed one salmonella test, but a retest came back negative.
With prosecutors questioning, Gray explained a diagram that she drew while investigating PCA's manufacturing practices, it was the jury's first look inside the plant.
As the FDA's investigation continued in early 2009, Lightsey let on about a few more positive tests. Gray said PCA initially hid those results which prevented the FDA from broadening their investigation that only focused on peanut butter at the time.
Lightsey said Stewart Parnell and Mary Wilkerson would know about other positives because they had been there longer.
It was the first time Wilkerson had been directly brought up by a witness in a case that has largely been focusing on Stewart Parnell.
Defense lawyers will get a chance to question Gray Wednesday. Samuel Lightsey's family was in the courtroom all day assuming that he would be called to the witness stand.
Former Peanut Corporation of America owner Stewart Parnell, his food broker brother Michael Parnell, and Georgia plant quality assurance manager Mary Wilkerson were indicted in February 2013, charged with shipping salmonella tainted peanuts and covering up lab results showing the nuts tested positive for the bacteria.
Nine people died and more than 700 were sickened in the outbreak that happened between five years ago.