SanGar Fresh Cut Produce Listeria Outbreak and Litigation
On October 20, 2010, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) announced that it had determined chopped celery was the source of a Listeria outbreak among Texas residents. Texas DSHS had been investigating the source of 10 cases of listeriosis—the illness caused by the ingestion of Listeria bacteria—five of which resulted in death, for eight months when investigators determined that the source of the outbreak was chopped celery sold by Sangar Fresh Cut Produce in San Antonio.
During the Listeria outbreak investigation, Texas DSHS attributed four of the five deaths to celery produced by Sangar. According to Texas DSHS, sanitation issues were to blame for the outbreak.
On January 5, 2011 Marler Clark filed a Listeria lawsuit on behalf of the family of Hermillo Castellano, one of the four who died as a result of eating the contaminated celery.
The lawsuit was filed in Bexar County District Court against San Antonio-based Sangar Fresh Cut Produce. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the family of a man who died from a Listerosis infection he contracted after eating celery produced by Sangar. The man, Hermillo Castellano was one four people who died as a result of consuming the contaminated celery.
According to the complaint filed by the Seattle-based food safety law firm Marler Clark and the Dallas-based Payne Mitchell Law Group, Castellano was in a San Antonio hospital with a previous condition in May 2010 when he consumed Sangar chopped celery. Three days after his discharge, Castellano began experiencing severe gastrointestinal problems and was readmitted to the hospital where he tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes. Over the next two weeks his condition worsened, and on June 15, 2010 Castellano died as a result of his Listerosis infection.
“Sangar Fresh Cut Produce had a responsibility to Mr. Castellano, his wife, and anyone who was a consumer of its produce to provide a safe and unadulterated product,” said Marler Clark Managing Partner Bill Marler. “Unfortunately in this case, Sangar failed to do so and the results were multiple and unnecessary deaths of people like Hermillo Castellano.”
In October 2010, after lab tests confirmed the presence of Listeria in the company’s chopped celery, the Texas Department of Health Services (DSHS) ordered Sangar to stop processing food and recall all products shipped from the plant since January 2010. According to a statement from the Texas DSHS conditions in the food processing plant posed “an immediate and serious threat to human life or health.” Seven cases including four deaths were attributed to Sangar.
All lawsuits were resolved.