The owner of Peanut Corp. of America, the company suspected of causing the nationwide salmonella outbreak, told his employees to ship products tainted with the bacteria even after receiving test results identifying the presence of salmonella, according to company e-mails disclosed Wednesday by U.S. lawmakers, the Associated Press reported.
The e-mails, obtained by a House of Representatives' panel investigating the outbreak, revealed that company owner Stewart Parnell ordered the tainted products to be shipped anyway because he was worried about lost sales, the news service reported.
Parnell was subpoenaed to appear before Congress on Wednesday for questioning on the salmonella outbreak that has sickened more than 600 people, been linked to eight deaths, and prompted one of the largest recalls in U.S. history -- more than 1,800 products. His plant in Blakely, Ga., is blamed for the outbreak, the AP reported.
Parnell showed up for the Congressional hearinng, but refused to answer questions, invoking his constitutional right not to incriminate himself, the AP said.
Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., revealed the company e-mails during a House Energy and Commerce hearing.
In prepared testimony, a laboratory owner told the lawmakers that Peanut Corp.'s disregard for tests identifying salmonella was "virtually unheard of" in the nation's food industry and should prompt efforts to increase federal oversight of product safety.
Charles Deibel, president of Deibel Laboratories Inc., said his company was among those that tested Peanut Corp.'s products and notified the Georgia plant that salmonella was found in some of its peanut stock. Peanut Corp. sold the products anyway, according to an U.S. Food and Drug Administration inspection report, the AP said.
The company, which is now under investigation by the FBI, makes only about 1 percent of U.S. peanut products, but its ingredients are used by dozens of other food companies.
Federal law bans producing or shipping foods that could be harmful to consumers, the news service said.
On Tuesday, a peanut processing plant in Texas owned by Peanut Corp.