The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) has ordered a San Antonio produce plant to stop processing food and recall all products shipped since January 2010 because “laboratory tests of chopped celery from the plant indicated the presence of Listeria monocytogenes.” DSHS has prohibited Sangar Fresh Cut Produce from reopening without approval from the department, which issues such orders when conditions pose “an immediate and serious threat to human life or health,” according to an October 20, 2010, DSHS press release.
After an eight-month investigation into a Listeriosis outbreak that included five deaths, DSHS allegedly linked Sangar’s chopped celery to six illnesses in people “with serious underlying health problems.” State inspectors also reportedly “found sanitation issues at the plant and believe the Listeria found in the chopped celery may have contaminated other food product there.” The recall primarily affects fresh produce sealed in packages and distributed “to restaurants and institutional entities, such as hospitals and schools.”
Meanwhile, Sangar President Kenneth Sanquist has publicly disputed the state’s findings, saying that independent testing “shows our produce to be absolutely safe, and we are aggressively fighting the state’s erroneous findings.” Plaintiffs’ lawyer Bill Marler, however, has since issued Freedom of Information Act requests to the state of Texas to examine the viability of the DSHS testing. “Sangar Fresh Cut Produce’s listeria [sic] outbreak will surely result in lawsuits,” according to an October 20, 2010, post on Marler’s Food Poison Journal. See Food Poison Journal, October 20 and 21, 2010; CNN.com, October 21, 2010.