Castleberry's expects restart

A top executive with Castleberry's Food Co. says he is confident that the Augusta plant will restart this week.

 

The plant on 15th Street shut down March 10, when the company learned that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture were pulling the company's operating permit because inspectors found deviations in how some of the equipment was being operated.

"We continue to work closely with the FDA and the USDA to reinstate our operating permit at our Augusta plant and hope to resume production early this week based on our current discussions with the agencies," Senior Vice President Dave Melbourne said in a statement Monday.

The latest shutdown was precautionary and does not involve health or safety issues, Mr. Melbourne said.

The plant was shut down for two months beginning in July because botulism toxin was found in cans of chili sauce. The Centers for Disease Control reported that eight people were sickened by the chili in Ohio, Texas and Indiana.

The $35 million recall involved more than 90 of the plant's products.

Two lawsuits against the company by people who said they were sickened are pending.

A Feb. 27 inspection of the plant revealed deviations in some equipment operation that could have resulted in undercooking of the meat. Because underprocessing caused the botulism outbreak, the federal agencies decided to revoke the permit, according to an FDA spokeswoman.

Most of the facility's 330 employees have not worked for the past two weeks.

"We're very grateful for the patience and understanding of our employees and customers during this time," Mr. Melbourne said.

Reach Tim Rausch at (706) 823-3352 or timothy.rausch@augustachronicle.com.

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