On October 20, 2010, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) announced that it had determined chopped celery was the source of a Listeria food poisoning outbreak among Texas residents. Texas DSHS had been investigating the source of 10 cases of listeriosis, 5 of which resulted in death, for 8 months when investigators determined that the source of the outbreak was chopped celery sold by Sangar Fresh Cut Produce in San Antonio. Six of the 10 cases have been conclusively linked to consumption of the chopped celery.
According to a health department press release, all cases of Listeriosis occurred in Bexar, Travis and Hidalgo counties. All of the reported cases were in people with serious underlying health problems.
Texas DSHS ordered the celery manufacturer, Sangar Fresh Cut Produce in San Antonio, to stop processing food and recall all products shipped from the plant since January 2010 after lab testing of chopped celery from the plant indicated the presence of Listeria. According to a press release issued by Texas DSHS, conditions in the food processing plant posed “an immediate and serious threat to human life or health.”
Sangar Fresh Cut Produce recalled products include primarily cut fresh produce in sealed packages, which were distributed to restaurants and institutional facilities such as hospitals and schools. The chopped celery is not believed to have been sold in grocery stores.
Texas DSHS inspectors reported that they found sanitation issues at the plant during the Listeria outbreak investigation and believe the Listeria bacteria found in the chopped celery may have contaminated other food manufactured in the facility. The agency stated in a press release that a condensation leak had been found above the food product area during an inspection. Inspectors also found soil on a food preparation table and identified hand washing issues. All of these factors could have contributed to the spread of Listeria throughout the food manufacturing plant where celery was chopped and packaged.
Texas DSHS food safety personnel are continuing their investigation into the possible points within the facility where the celery became contaminated with Listeria and is contacting distributors, restaurants and institutions believed to have received the recalled products to ensure the celery and other products sold by Sangar Fresh Cut Produce does not reach consumers.
The order issued by Texas DSHS prohibits the plant from reopening without DSHS approval.