Castleberry's restarts today

Kendrick Brinson/Staff
Cars fill a parking lot of the Casteberry's plant on 15th Street, where about 425 employees have been called back to work. Botulism contamination caused the plant to close.

The Castleberry's Food Co. recall saga might finally be winding down.

The Augusta plant is scheduled to go back online today, according to a company statement, almost two months after botulism contamination caused a $35 million recall and shut down the 15th Street plant.

The company said as recently as last week that the plant would reopen in October. But Dave Melbourne, Castleberry's senior vice president, wrote in an e-mail that the goal was to open as early as possible and that work between staff and regulatory agencies helped them open sooner.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture last week gave Castleberry's the green light to reopen.

The company said in a statement that it "made modifications to operating procedures in order to strengthen them," but refused to specify what changes were made.

About 425 employees have been called back to work, and Mr. Melbourne said production will resume on four of the six production lines.

Castleberry's officials declined to say which products would be produced initially.

Mr. Melbourne also confirmed that faulty equipment on one of the production lines caused some of its hot dog chili made in early May to be underprocessed, causing the botulism contamination.

The line responsible for the underprocessed chili remains closed and it will be several months before the plant is at full production.

The recall is still in effect for the more than 90 products Castleberry's pulled from store shelves in July after its hot dog chili was linked to botulism poisoning.

Eight people were sickened by the chili in Ohio, Texas and Indiana, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The shutdown cost 31 full-time employees their jobs. Eighty temporary workers weren't asked to return.

Reach Laura Youngs at (706) 823-3227 or laura.youngs@augustachronicle.com.

More