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Celery controversy continues: Where did listeria germs come from?

11 November 2010

A hearing on the report about four deaths at a Texas food factory is scheduled for 17 November in Austin. Meanwhile, CBS News has reported the real mystery is the source of the contamination.

CBS reports that federal health officials had announced they found listeria germs at the plant Texas authorities have linked to the deaths. But the San Antonio produce processing company, SanGar, disputes the allegations.

The FDA says it found the pathogen in multiple locations in the SanGar Produce & Processing Co plant, confirming test results announced last month by Texas health authorities.

Hours later, CBS reported, SanGar attorney Jason Galvan announced an analysis done 26 October by a laboratory - hired by the company - had negative results for listeria. The state closed the plant on 20 October and recalled all produce shipped since January. A hearing is set for 17 November in Austin.

An FDA report also released yesterday included 18 observations from inspectors, including:
* failure to take necessary precautions to protect against contamination of food & food contact surfaces;
* failure to store raw materials in a way that protects against contamination; and
* failure to take apart equipment as necessary to ensure thorough cleaning.

Each year, listeriosis kills about 500 people in the US and makes about 2,500 people seriously ill, according to the Centres for Disease Control & Prevention. Those with weaker immune systems - including pregnant women, young children, the elderly and those battling serious illness - are most at risk of becoming seriously ill or dying because of listeriosis, the CDC says.

Healthy adults and children occasionally are infected with the disease but rarely become seriously ill.

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