San Antonio celery and listeriosis

On October 20, 2010 the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) ordered Sangar Fresh Cut Produce in San Antonio to stop processing food and recall all products shipped from the plant since January.

What is the danger?

This plant shut down 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.

State law allows DSHS to issue such orders when conditions exist that pose "an immediate and serious threat to human life or health."

The recalled products were primarily cut fresh produce in sealed packages. These packages were distributed to restaurants and institutional entities, such as hospitals and schools. These packages are not believed to have been sold in grocery stores.

This testing was done as part of a DSHS investigation into 10 listeriosis cases which have included five deaths over an eight-month period. Six of the 10 cases have been linked to the chopped celery from the Sangar plant. These illnesses occurred in Bexar, Travis and Hidalgo counties. All of the illnesses developed in people with serious underlying health problems.

The DSHS inspectors also found sanitation issues at the plant and believe the Listeria found in the chopped celery may well have contaminated other food produced there.

The department found such problems as a condensation leak above a food product area, soil on a preparation table and hand washing issues.

DSHS food safety personnel are currently contacting distributors, restaurants and institutions believed to have received the recalled products. There is an ongoing investigation of possible sources of contamination and where the products were distributed.

What do I do?

You are advised to discard or return the products. Cooking the products is not recommended.

What are the symptoms of listeriosis

"Symptoms of listeriosis can include fever, muscle aches, diarrhea and vomiting. People with these symptoms should consult a physician. Symptoms typically occur three to 70 days after exposure. The disease affects primarily older people, pregnant women, newborns and people with weakened immune systems."