FDA Probe Finds Listeria at Texas Produce Company

This October, the Texas Department of State Health Services ordered a San Antonio fresh produce processor to close after state investigators found Listeria in the chopped celery that it produced for restaurants and institutions. The testing came about in the wake of 10 listeriosis cases, including the five fatalities, in the previous 8 months.

On November 2, 2010, The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released results of its laboratory testing of processed finished product and environmental samples taken from SanGar Fresh Cut Produce, San Antonio, Texas on October 14-15. The results indicate the presence of Listeria monocytogenes, a bacterium that can cause severe illness, in processed celery and in multiple locations in the plant environment, including on food contact surfaces. The listeria identified in FDA samples matches the DNA fingerprint of the clinical cases of listeriosis reported by the Texas Department of State Health Services.

As part of its joint investigation with Texas state officials, the FDA also inspected the SanGar company’s premises and issued a summary of its findings to the firm on October 26. The Texas DSHS ordered SanGar to stop processing food on October 20, 2010 and to recall all product shipped from the San Antonio plant since January.

The only issue related to pallets I noted in the investigation was with respect to how employees chose to position them in locations that exposed them to possible contamination from contact with pooled or dripping water, etc., resulting from other structural and process deficiencies. The FDA report did report the use of a few broken plastic containers and baskets.

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