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Celery versus State of Texas

Photo of Randy Sorrels

In one of the more interesting battles taking place during the election season, is a San Antonio produce company that is seeking to challenge the State of Texas Department of State Health Services order to close its plant and recall all products shipped from there since January 2010. The Sangar Produce & Processing Company has been linked to a deadly outbreak of listeriosis over the past 10 months, with at least 10 people falling ill after consuming celery. At least six of the 10 victims conclusively linked to chopped celery sold by Sangar to restaurants, a hospital and elementary schools. The company, however, vehemently denies the allegations and questions the validity of the state's testing procedures, claiming the produce samples were collected by an individual not wearing proper lab attire, including gloves, and the samples were transported in an unrefrigerated container.

The State contends there have been cases identified in Bexar, Travis and Hidalgo counties, with five fatalities since the beginning of the year. DSHS inspectors are reported to have found unsanitary conditions in the plant including a condensation leak above a food product area, soil on a preparation table and improper hand washing by employees. Sangar counters with documents from a private lab that showed a negative test result for listeria from the same batch of celery the state found contaminated on the same date. The company also notes it has been thoroughly cleaning the plant while it is closed. It also requests a scheduled hearing to reopen the plant to be moved up to the week of October 25, 2010,from the current November 17 date.

If you or a close relative or friend suspect you may be the victim of listeria linked to the celery, you should contact the Department of State Health Services, and report the situation immediately.

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