After Deaths at Chicken Plant, Probe Zeroes In on Conveyer

6 workers died after liquid nitrogen release at Foundation Food Group in Georgia
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 8, 2021 2:10 PM CST
After Deaths at Chicken Plant, Probe Zeroes In on Conveyer
Two Hall County Firefighters enter a back door Friday, Jan. 29, 2021, at Foundation Food Group in Gainesville, Ga., the day after six people were killed following a liquid nitrogen leak at the plant.   (Scott Rogers/The Times via AP)

A conveyer that transported chicken to a liquid nitrogen bath at a Georgia poultry processing plant had unresolved problems prior to the liquid nitrogen release that killed six workers on Jan. 28, federal investigators said. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports the plant in Gainesville flash freezes its chicken using liquid nitrogen and has five production lines. "Unresolved operational issues" with the conveyer on one of those lines "appear to have resulted in the accidental release of liquid nitrogen," the US Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board said late Sunday. The processing line that malfunctioned had been shut down on the morning of the deadly incident, and workers reported that a computerized measuring system indicated a low liquid level in the immersion bath where the poultry is flash-frozen.

The chemical safety board has previously said the line that failed was used to season, cook, freeze, and package chicken, and the nitrogen system had been installed only weeks before, reports the AP. Investigators have also said they found some tools near the freezer on the line, and it was undergoing "unplanned maintenance." NPR reports the Chemical Safety Board's CEO said shortly after the leak that "depending on the complexity of the investigation, it may take up to several years." The board doesn't dole out fines or citations but will issue safety recommendations.

(Read more accidental death stories.)

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