Food safety is a big issue in these modern lives of ours, as we trade our dollars for countless millions of packaged foods, trusting manufacturers to look out for the well-being of consumers everywhere. Sometimes, that doesn’t happen. This week, in a landmark federal case, the former head of a peanut company was sentenced to 28 years after being convicted of a host of offenses related to a deadly nationwide salmonella outbreak in 2008, including knowingly shipping out tainted products.

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Stewart Parnell, former owner of the Peanut Corporation of America, is not just the man of the hour, but practically the man of the century. On Monday, a federal judge sentenced him to 28 years for conspiracy, obstruction of justice, wire fraud, and other crimes related the 2008 and 2009 salmonella outbreak caused by tainted peanuts. That outbreak killed nine people, caused over 700 others to become ill, and spurred one of the largest food recalls in U.S. history – and Parnell not only knew about it, but ordered his employees to “just ship it” when they notified him about tainted product. In addition to Parnell’s conviction, two others involved in the fiasco – one of whom is the former peanut boss’s brother Michael Parnell – were also handed long sentences.

Related: CDC urges people to stop snuggling or kissing chickens due to salmonella concerns

The results of this case are important not just because they represent justice for the victims of the outbreak, but also because of the precedent they set. These sentences are the first felony punishments for executives in a food-borne outbreak in 77 years, according to attorney Bill Marler, who represents several victims of Parnell’s products. Despite the lengthy sentence, though, Marler and others with a personal interest in the case feel it won’t be surprising if the convicted execs serve just a few years, if any time at all.

The 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act closed some loopholes and helps reduce the risks for consumers for future outbreaks. However, accidents still happen and company leadership is still responsible when things go wrong. Certainly, if contaminated product is handled properly – with caution and care, rather than greed – then consumers will be safer, but if the legal system is finally going to hold company executives accountable for their actions, then we have entered a new era worth celebrating.

Via Huffington Post

Images via Shutterstock (1, 2)