Celery

Safe Food Book CoverFive deaths and six illnesses are being linked to celery distributed by San Antonio-based SanGar Produce & Processing.

The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) has ordered the company to stop processing food and recall all products shipped from the plant since January. The order was issued after laboratory tests of chopped celery from the plant indicated the presence of Listeria monocytogenes, a bacterium that can cause severe illness.

The recalled products—primarily cut fresh produce in sealed packages—were distributed to restaurants and institutional entities like hospitals and schools. The DSHS doesn’t believe products were sold in grocery stores.

SanGar’s celery was tested when the DSHS was investigating 10 listeriosis cases (including the five deaths) reported over an 8-month period. Six of these cases have been linked to chopped celery from the SanGar plant, and those affected had serious underlying health problems.

DSHS inspectors also found sanitation issues at the plant and say the listeria found in the chopped celery may have contaminated other food produced there. The department found a condensation leak above a food product area, soil on a preparation table and handwashing issues.

SanGar’s customers are being advised to discard or return the products, and the company may not reopen until it earns DSHS approval.

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Photo: Seth Sawyers