1 worker from evacuated turkey plant still hospitalized; cause unknown

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The Jennie-O turkey processing plant evacuated Friday night after dozens of workers suddenly became ill is operating normally again, and all but one of the affected employees is out of the hospital, the West Central Tribune reports.

A total of 24 people were treated in the emergency department at Rice Memorial Hospital, the hospital says in a press release. Twenty-three of the patients were released; one was admitted, is in stable condition, and is expected to be released Sunday, the release says.

Willmar police told KSTP the Jennie-O’s plant No. 4 was evacuated around 7:30 p.m. Friday, after just a few employees were found coughing and vomiting. But before long about 30 people were sick.

According to the West Central Tribune, Jennie-O officials said in a statement Saturday local officials helped conduct a thorough investigation, but no cause for the sudden illness was discovered. The plant is operating normally once again.

KARE 11 says tests for Carbon Monoxide, Carbon Dioxide and Ammonia all came back negative.

Rice hospital says its staff were initially notified that 22 of the plant's employees were not feeling well, exhibiting vomiting and respiratory symptoms. Seven ambulances and a bus were sent to the plant to help.

WCCO says the hospital called in extra staff to help treat the workers. While a chemical leak was suspected, the fire department and a chemical exposure team did not immediately find one, the station says.

The company that would grow into Jennie-O Foods opened its first turkey processing plant in Willmar in 1949. Since then Jennie-O merged with The Turkey Store Co. and is now part of Hormel Foods Corporation, its website says.

From Willmar, Jennie-O has expanded to include seven processing plants.

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