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Texas plant shut down following link to Listeria

by Joan Murphy | October 20, 2010
Sangar Fresh Cut Produce in San Antonio, TX, was shut down Oct. 20 after Texas authorities tied the processor to a listeriosis outbreak that has resulted in five deaths.

Six of 10 cases of listeria poisoning have been traced to chopped celery from the Sangar plant, the Texas Department of State Health Services in an Oct. 20 statement. Some 10 cases have been reported to state authorities over the last eight months, DSHS said.

The company, which sells to restaurants and institutional customers, was ordered to recall all products shipped from the plant since January. The recalled products - primarily fresh-cut produce in sealed packages – were not believed to be sold in grocery stores, DSHS said.

Texas authorities reported that Listeria monocytogenes was found in chopped celery at the plant during its investigation.

"DSHS inspectors also found sanitation issues at the plant and believe the Listeria found in the chopped celery may have contaminated other food produced there," DSHS said in the statement. “The department found a condensation leak above a food product area, soil on a preparation table and hand washing issues.”

But Kenneth Sanquist, president of Sangar, released a statement sayng that the state's claim that some of the produce fails to meet health standards contradicts independent tests conducted on the same products.

Mr. Sanquist, who could not be reached for comment, was quoted in an August local news segment pushing San Antonio to require tougher food- safety standards for fresh-cut processors.

The 10-year-old company says on its web site that “food safety is our top priority,” and that Primus Labs, Quanta Labs, U.S. government and Texas health officials conduct regular inspections. The company sells fresh-cut salad mixes, fruits and vegetables to the San Antonio area that are distributed in the Rio Grande Valley, Houston, Dallas and Oklahoma.

DSHS is contacting distributors, restaurants and institutions believed to have received the recalled products to ensure they are taking appropriate action to protect consumers.