Listeria Lawsuit Claims Tainted Celery Caused Man’s Death

We’ve been following a deadly <"">Listeria outbreak confirmed as originating at SanGar Produce & Processing Co, the Texas food plant associated with Listeria-contaminated celery. At least four deaths in Texas have been tied to the celery Listeria outbreak. Now, SanGar Fresh Cut Produce, located in San Antonio, is facing at least one lawsuit.

The lawsuit was filed by Elizabeth Castellano, the widow of Hermillo Castellano, who died in June after coming down with listeriosis from contaminated celery produced by SanGar, said KSAT. The lawsuit alleges that Castellano consumed the tainted celery in May, during a hospital stay for an unrelated issue, noted KSAT.

The state health department tested samples from the plant in October and found the presence of Listeria there; however, Sangar’s owner claims that the samples were “mishandled,” wrote KSAT. “We collected a sister sample of that product,” said Kenneth Sandquist Jr., quoted KSAT. “We had it sent to a lab (and) it returned negative for any food borne pathogen,” he added.

Follow-up testing by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) 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. 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.

The SanGar plant remains closed and the firm is working on a compliance plan to be submitted the health department, added KSAT.

In the meantime, according to a health department spokesman, new tests have returned positive for the pathogen; the department last visited the plant in December and plans on returning this month to collect more samples, wrote KSAT.

Of note, the FDA said its inspectors found a number of 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 officials 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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