Listeria Confirmed at Texas Celery Plant Linked to Four Deaths

<"">Listeria has been confirmed at SanGar Produce & Processing Co, the Texas food plant associated with an outbreak of Listeria linked to contaminated celery. At least four deaths in Texas have been tied to the celery Listeria outbreak.

Yesterday, the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) said it had found Listeria bacteria in multiple locations around the SanGar plant. The Listeria found in samples “matches the DNA fingerprint of the clinical cases of listeriosis reported by the Texas Department of State Health Services,” the agency said in a statement.

Those findings confirm the results of testing conducted by the Texas Department of State Health Services last month. On October 20, Texas officials closed the SanGar plant and ordered a recall of all produce shipped from there since January. It is prohibited from opening without the health department’s approval.

In addition to celery, the SanGar plant produced a variety of other foods, including fresh-cut lettuce, pineapple and honeydew sold in sealed packages. The recalled products were distributed to restaurants and institutional entities, such as hospitals and schools, and are not believed to be sold in grocery stores.

The FDA said Wednesday its inspectors found several other problems at SanGar, including hoses making contact with food, bagged carrots being stored on a wet floor, a lack of adequate drainage areas, foods not being stored at the proper temperature and a failure to safely clean utensils and equipment.

Texas official initially traced six of 10 known cases of Listeria illnesses that occurred in the state during an eight-month period to celery processed at the SanGar plant, including four deaths. They have since linked another case to SanGar, and are investigating three others. A fifth Listeria death in the state is believed to have originated from another source.

Listeria symptoms may include fever, muscle aches, and gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea or diarrhea. If the infection spreads to the nervous system, symptoms may include headache, stiff neck, or confusion. The illness is most dangerous for pregnant women, the elderly, very young children, and those with weakened immune systems.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, Listeria kills about 500 people each year in the US and about 2,500 people become seriously ill.

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