ALBANY, Ga. — A former peanut company executive was sentenced Monday to 28 years in prison for his role in a deadly salmonella outbreak, the stiffest punishment ever handed out to a producer in a foodborne illness case. The outbreak in 2008 and 2009 killed nine people and sickened hundreds more, and triggered one of the largest food recalls in U.S. history.

Before he was sentenced, former Peanut Corporation of America owner Stewart Parnell listened from his courtroom seat as nine victims testified about the terror and grief caused by peanut butter traced to the company’s plant in southwest Georgia.

One of the victims was 10-year-old Jacob Hurley, who was just 3 when he was stricken by salmonella from peanut butter crackers that left him vomiting and rushing to the toilet for nearly two weeks.

“I think it’s OK for him to spend the rest of his life in prison,” Jacob told the judge.

A federal jury convicted Parnell, 61, of knowingly shipping contaminated peanut butter and of faking results of lab tests intended to screen for salmonella. Judge W. Louis Sands estimated Parnell faced up to 803 years in prison for his crimes.

“These acts were driven simply by the desire to profit and to protect profits notwithstanding the known risks” from salmonella, the judge said. “This is commonly and accurately referred to as greed.”

Federal investigators found a leaky roof, roaches and evidence of rodents at the plant, all ingredients for brewing salmonella. They also uncovered emails and records showing food confirmed by lab tests to contain salmonella was shipped to customers anyway.

Emails prosecutors presented at trial showed that Parnell once directed employees to “turn them loose” after samples of peanuts tested positive for salmonella and then were cleared in another test.