- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 8, 2010

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Associated Press has learned that the peanut industry executive whose filthy processing plants were blamed in a salmonella outbreak two years ago that killed nine people and sickened hundreds more is back in the business.

Stewart Parnell, the former president of the now-bankrupt Peanut Corp. of America, is working as a consultant to peanut companies as the federal government’s criminal investigation against him has languished for more than 18 months.

Congressional investigators uncovered e-mails in which Parnell once directed employees to “turn them loose” after samples of peanuts had tested positive for salmonella but were cleared in a second test.

Parnell invoked the Fifth Amendment to avoid testifying before Congress in February 2009.

Two Minnesotans died in the outbreak. Shirley Mae Almer, 72, and Clifford Tousignant, 78, both ate contaminated peanut butter at Brainerd nursing homes.

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