Food Safety Magazine

News | March 23, 2018

Frozen Vegetable Plant Reopening 2 Years After Deadly Listeria Outbreak

By Food Safety News

Frozen Vegetable Plant Reopening 2 Years After Deadly Listeria Outbreak

Source: Food Safety News

A former Pasco, WA, vegetable processing plant shut down last year after a deadly Listeria outbreak is reopening under new ownership and a new name.

The plant was owned by CRF Frozen Foods and is set to reopen as a new joint venture between J.R. Simplot and CRF’s parent company, R.D. Offutt, according to the Tri-City Herald newspaper. The company’s new name will be Simplot RDO.

The company has said it’s shooting for a spring reopening, but details aren’t available as to when that might happen. A Simplot official didn’t respond to a call seeking comment. Local government officials are similarly vague. Colin Hastings of the Pasco Chamber of Commerce said he hasn’t heard when the plant might reopen.

In 2016, CRF Frozen Foods was linked to nine Listeria infections in four states. All nine people required hospitalization and three died, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The plant closed in April 2016 after CRF recalled hundreds of products under dozens of brands, spurring a series of secondary recalls of products made with the recalled frozen vegetables. Lab analysis of samples of the company’s frozen corn and peas showed they were contaminated with the same strain of Listeria monocytogenes that had infected people in at least three states.

The CDC’s investigation into the listeriosis outbreak traced to frozen vegetables from CRF Frozen Foods Inc. ended this past summer, but the federal agency expressed continuing concern that consumers may have foods in their freezers that were processed by CRF Frozen Foods. The latest “sell by” date for the recalled frozen vegetables is April this year.

The products recalled included more than 350 frozen products packaged by CRF Frozen Foods Inc. under 42 brands, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Recalled products were sold across the U.S. and Canada. A list of recalled products for CRF Frozen Foods may be found on foodsafety.gov.

The FDA facilitated the recall of at least 456 products related to the outbreak. CRF Frozen Foods recalled 358 products and at least 98 other products were recalled by other firms that received CRF-recalled products, according to FDA.

“We’re doing a significant remodel and rebuild that includes refitting the factory to include the latest in sanitary methods and processes ensuring the highest levels of food safety,” J.R. Simplot spokesman Josh Jordan told the Tri-City Herald. “We’re also having ongoing consultation with the (Food and Drug Administration) to ensure the facility meets or exceeds the highest levels of their food safety requirements,”

The former home of CRF just west of the Pasco-Kahlotus Highway is being remodeled, rehabbed and expanded to more than 100,000 square feet to provide day-to-day processing and distribution of local crops like corn and peas.

The 25,000-square-foot expansion is valued at $2.48 million, the Tri-City Herald reported.

Jordan said the new facility will include state-of-the-art updates to process an increased demand for raw product. The company chose the location because of the import and export possibilities in the area, as well as the growing population and trained work force in Franklin County, he said.

Hastings, of the Pasco Chamber of Commerce, said the city has grown quickly and has a robust work force.

An initial recall on items made by CRF Frozen Foods affected frozen vegetables processed and distributed in fall 2015. The recall was eventually expanded to include all organic and traditional frozen fruits and vegetable products processed at the Pasco facility from spring 2014. This included products sold under more than 40 brand names, including Columbia River Organics, Northwest Growers Select and Organic by Nature.

Listeriosis is a serious infection caused by the germ Listeria monocytogenes. People usually become ill with listeriosis after eating contaminated food. The disease affects pregnant women, newborns, older adults and people with weakened immune systems most seriously, according to the CDC.

The J.R. Simplot Co., based out of Boise, calls itself one of the largest privately held food and agribusiness companies in the nation. In addition to food processing, it has farming and ranching operations in the Northwest and Nevada. This includes the management of about 40 farms, including Grand View Farms-Pasco, as well as feedlot operations, also in Pasco.

Simplot’s partner in the project, R.D. Offutt Company, is based out of Fargo, NDR.D. Offutt Company, and its farming operations focus mainly on potatoes. It had been the parent company of CRF Frozen Foods before its shutdown in 2016.

More on the CRF Frozen Foods outbreak:
CDC Ends Frozen Vegetable Outbreak Investigation
CRF Foods: FDA Report Shows Violations Since 2014 
CDC Update: Multistate Outbreak of Listeriosis Linked to Frozen Vegetables 

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