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Violations before food poisoning outbreak included illegal guinea pig slaughter

Posted by: Alejandra Matos under Businesses in hot water, Dangerous products Updated: October 8, 2013 - 4:01 PM

The owner of New York Plaza Produce, which was the source of a salmonella outbreak in August, obtained guinea pigs from an unlicensed supplier and "slaughtered live guinea pigs in the back warewashing area of the meat market," according to a Minneapolis inspection report.

Nieves Riera was issued a $1,000 citation on Oct. 1 for five violations related to the Ecuadorian Independence Festival held on August 11 on Lake Street where more than 80 people who fell ill after eating salmonella-tainted food, including guinea pig meat, that Riera served.

The outbreak was the largest documented incident of food-borne illness at a single event in Minnesota since 167 prison inmates got sick in 2009, according to data from the Minnesota Department of Health.

The five violations were discovered in an inspection of the market four days after the festival. There were three "critical" violations, one pertaining to cooking food at an unlicensed facility and two others related to the handling and purchasing of the guinea pigs. 

"Nieves Riera obtained guinea pigs from an unlicensed supplier. The guinea pigs were sold at the Ecuadorian Festival," the compliance officer noted in the inspection report. "Cooked pork was purchased from a Minneapolis Meat Market. The pork was resold at the Ecuadorian festival. The source of the pork is not an approved wholesaler."

According to the report, Riera stated that she slaughtered the live guinea pigs in the back area of the meat market. "This is not a slaughter house and live animals are not allowed on the premises," the report says.

Riera must pay the $1,000 fine by Oct. 31. She could not be reached Tuesday.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture, which licenses the market, is still investigating the incident. No data, including previous inspection or incident data, has been released by the department. 

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