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CSB Issues Update on Fatal Nitrogen Release Investigation

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A view of the Prime Pak Foods plant in Gainesville, GA.
New details were released on the deadly incident at the Foundation Foods plant last January.

The US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) issued a third release of information this Sunday that offers new details on its investigation of a liquid nitrogen leak that claimed six lives at the Foundations Food Group poultry processing plant in Gainesville, GA in late January.

Six people died and several others were injured on January 27 during a liquid nitrogen leak at Foundation Foods’ Prime Pak Foods facility. CSB officials responded to the site shortly after the incident occurred and opened an investigation into the incident.

An earlier update on the investigation said CSB determined that the release took place on Line 4 in Plant 4 at the site, which is used to season, cook, freeze and package chicken products. The CSB said it is focusing its investigation on a cryogenic freezing system. Investigators noted that liquid nitrogen was first used in Plant 4 in 2020 and that some tools were found near an immersion freezer on Line 4.

The CSB said Monday that the liquid nitrogen (LN) units at the Gainesville plant were manufactured and installed by Messer and are leased to Foundation Food Group. Investigators also found that the food firm routinely performs maintenance on the Messer-owned LN equipment.

New information was also available on how other equipment in the facility may have played a role in the incident.

“The plant had been experiencing unresolved operational issues on the chicken conveyor that appear to have resulted in the accidental release of liquid nitrogen in the flash freezing bath,” the CSB’s release said.

Line 4 was shut down because of operational issues with the conveyor line on the morning of the release, officials said. Company maintenance personnel reported that a computerized measuring system showed a low liquid level in the immersion bath used to flash freeze chicken products.

CSB will provide more updates as its investigation proceeds.

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