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Celery deaths: What will the tests reveal?

01 November 2010

A storm has broken out in Texas after health officials shut SanGar Produce & Processing Co when they discovered contaminated celery may have been linked to the deaths of four (and possibly five) people

The plant was ordered to immediately stop operations and recall all products shipped since January. The deaths are claimed to have been the result of listeriosis food poisoning after the deceased apparently ate chopped celery from the San Antonio factory.
Caused by not washing or cooking raw vegetables properly, the bacterial infection is rare but is fatal for newborn babies, pregnant women and the elderly. Several counties in Texas were affected including Bexar, Travis and Hidalgo.

SanGar isn’t taking this lying down, however. It has refuted the accusations from the Texas Department of State Health Services and said it has an ‘’excellent record of safety and health’’. The company says it has undertaken independent testing and is ‘’aggressively’’ fighting the state’s findings.

The results of tests done by state health authorities are due this week. Sherri McGarry of the Food & Drug Administration said the analysis of samples taken by the federal agency on 15 October isn't complete, and didn’t know when they would be.

"They are pending and in process right now," said McGarry, director of the agency's public health and biostatistics division in the Centre for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

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