Texas Shuts Down San Antonio Food Processor

SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- Texas health officials investigating five deaths have closed a San Antonio food processing plant and ordered a recall of all products shipped from there since January.

The Texas Department of State Health Services said the recalled SanGar Produce & Processing Co. items include fresh cut fruit and vegetables in sealed packages that are distributed to restaurants, hospitals and schools.

The agency said it closed the SanGar plant Wednesday after the agency linked six of 10 known cases of listeriosis to chopped celery produced at the plant. It did not say how many of the five listeriosis deaths it is investigating are linked to the plant. Symptoms of listeriosis include fever, muscle aches, diarrhea and vomiting.

The agency said people were sickened with listeriosis in Bexar, Travis and Hidalgo counties and that all of them already had serious underlying health problems.

The company says on its website that "indirectly through several of our customers, our products are distributed in the Rio Grande Valley, Houston, Dallas and Oklahoma."

The DSHS said its inspectors found problems with sanitation at the San Antonio plant, including a condensation leak over a food production area, and prohibited SanGar from reopening the plant without agency approval.

In a statement late Wednesday, SanGar president Kenneth Sanquist Jr. defended the company's safety record.

"The state's claim that some of our produce now fails to meet health standards directly contradicts independent testing that was conducted on the same products," Sanquist said. "This independent testing shows our produce to be absolutely safe, and we are aggressively fighting the state's erroneous findings."

Sanquist declined to comment to The Associated Press on Thursday, referring all questions to the company's attorney. The Uresti Law Firm did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

The health department recommends that customers throw out or return all SanGar products.

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