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Mr. (Tainted) Peanut Pleads the Fifth

A Congressional House Committee began looking into a salmonella outbreak at the Peanut Corporation of America Wednesday, however the owner of the company has refused to testify. Video by AP

Next in the shaming of Parnell: the victims' families. Jeffrey Almer, from Minnesota, placed a photo of his mother on the witness table. "Cancer couldn't claim her, but peanut butter did," he said. "PCA now has the blood of eight victims on their hands and the shattered health of 600 others." Another man, Lou Tousignant, showed a photo montage of his father while soft music played. Finally, police officer Peter Hurley spoke of his son's salmonella poisoning, while the 3-year-old and his sisters squirmed and played in the front row.

"I wonder if Mr. Parnell is in the audience," Walden said. Silence. "Is Mr. Parnell in the audience?" More silence. "I would think that the least he could have done was to be here to hear your comments, to hear about your loved ones," the congressman continued.

Minutes later, the chunky Parnell, his face puffy and his hands clasped in front of him, took his place at the table, while the victims' families watched from the first row and from the committee staff room.

Stupak asked whether he put "food products into interstate commerce that you knew to be contaminated with salmonella." Parnell read his Fifth Amendment refusal.

"The food poisoning of people -- is that just a cost of doing business?" Stupak asked. Parnell, sounding weary, repeated his line.

Walden held up his container. "Would you be willing to take the lid off and eat any of these products now, like the people on the panel ahead of you, their relatives and loved ones did?"

Parnell took the Fifth on the salmonella snack offer.

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