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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

SanGar’s Chopped Celery Linked to Listeria Outbreak in Bexar, Guadalupe, Travis and Hidalgo Counties Takes Last Stand

Screen shot 2010-10-23 at 5.11.10 PM.pngPerhaps SanGar has been too long in the shadow of the last stand at the Alamo, or the owners believe the Tea Party mantra of blaming the government for all that is bad will work to deflect that SanGar may well be responsible for the deaths of at least 4 and perhaps 5 and sickening of 6 to 10. But hey, either way, they seem to be of the mind to make any argument and are “lawyered-up” to do it.

What SanGar faces, however, are the “straight-shootin’” folks from the Texas Environmental Health Association and the Texas Department of State Health Services who clearly felt that they had the facts to force a showdown with SanGar. Here is part of Don Finley’s (San Antonio Express-News) story:

Sangar Produce & Processing Co., which was ordered to stop doing business Wednesday and recall all products shipped since January, continues to maintain it did nothing wrong. It provided documents from a private lab that show negative test results for listeria from the same batch of celery that the Texas Department of State Health Services labs found contaminated on the same date.

The company’s lawyer also provided security video that seems to show the inspector did not wear gloves, mask and gown and transported the samples in a non-chilled container — all of which might have contaminated the samples, they argued.

That charge was disputed by state health officials.

“Gloves and lab coats are not necessary when collecting sealed food packages,” DSHS spokeswoman Carrie Williams said. “Our inspector transported the products in a sealed, iced cooler. The samples were properly collected, handled and stored, and we stand by our findings.

“It’s disappointing that the company appears to be using time and energy to promote a video to the news media that shows nothing of significance,” Williams added. “With four deaths linked to the plant, we would hope their total focus is on cleaning and continuing to work with us on the recall.”

Williams said health officials first discovered listeria contamination in SanGar celery not at the plant, but six days earlier at an unidentified food establishment that used the product. The tests at the factory confirmed the source of contamination.

SanGar.jpgThe most recent data suggest that about 2,500 illnesses and 500 deaths are attributed to listeriosis in the United States annually (CDC website, 2009). Neonatal infections are often severe, with a mortality rate of 25-50% (Bortolussi, 2008). Individuals at increased risk include (CDC website, 2009):

  • Pregnant women: They are about 20 times more likely than other healthy adults to get listeriosis. About one-third of listeriosis cases happen during pregnancy.
  • Newborns: Newborns rather than the pregnant women themselves suffer the serious effects of infection in pregnancy.
  • Persons with weakened immune systems
  • Persons with cancer, diabetes, or kidney disease
  • Persons with AIDS: They are almost 300 times more likely to get listeriosis than people with normal immune systems.
  • Persons who take glucocorticosteroid medications (such as cortisone)
  • The elderly

SanGar better hope that its arguments have at least some merit or it really runs the same risk that the fellows at the Alamo did.