In a statement issued Thursday, Coronet Foods acknowledged that the Pennsylvania Health Department has linked the Sheetz chain of stores to a salmonella outbreak in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Maryland. As a produce supplier of Sheetz, Coronet states it is aware of the possibility of the bacteria in its processing plant.
"As a produce supplier for Sheetz, Coronet Foods is concerned for the health and safety of consumers," a news release from the company stated. "We understand that the Health Department has identified javiana as the salmonella strain, and has narrowed its investigation to Roma tomatoes, though Coronet Foods has not been officially notified."
According to Alicia Thayer, the quality assurance manager and director of safety for Coronet Foods, Sheetz is still doing business with the company.
"At this point, the only product Sheetz is not buying from us is the Roma tomatoes," Thayer said. She said that although she can't speak to the future relationship with Sheetz, right now the supply of other produce is "business as usual."
Thayer said as of now, Coronet Foods has had no implication in the salmonella outbreak, but she added that the company is taking voluntary steps with regard to the Roma tomatoes.
Coronet Foods immediately and voluntarily has taken the following actions as precautionary measures:
Ceased the purchasing and processing of Roma tomatoes pending an internal investigation as well as that of state and federal regulatory agencies;
Moved off site and quarantined any remaining inventory of Roma tomatoes;
Completely resanitized the tomato processing line;
Notified the growers and suppliers of the Roma tomatoes.
Thayer said the company has not been notified that the contaminated Roma tomatoes came from its plant, but the company is taking these steps to "err on the side of caution."
According to the company's release, sliced Roma tomatoes represent only 1 percent of the entire line, and 99 percent of that 1 percent is distributed to Sheetz.
"Tomato processing is a totally separate operation within the facilities at Coronet Foods - from the loading docks through the washing, processing, packaging and shipping."
According to Thayer, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration was in the plant Tuesday, doing testing and investigation.
"At this point, they have no findings," Thayer said, adding that an internal investigation is also ongoing, and both entities are waiting on test results.
Headquartered in Wheeling, Coronet is one of the largest processors of fresh-cut products to some of the leading restaurant and food retailers, and its plants have received some of the highest industry quality ratings possible, according to the company's written statement.
Founded in 1965, Coronet has a complete Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point program in place to identify, monitor, and remedy all potential hazards and health violations.