All patients are in stable condition after a medical situation Friday night at a Jennie-O Turkey Store processing plant in Willmar caused a number of employees to be hospitalized.
A team of doctors evaluated 24 patients for a potential chemical exposure at Rice Memorial Hospital and implemented an emergency plan and called in additional staff. The patients were treated and released after the team consulted with Poison Control and the Minnesota Department of Health, according to a press release from Rice Memorial Hospital.
Chief Nursing Officer at Rice Hospital, Wendy Ulferts, said one patient was admitted to the hospital and will be released Saturday.
Rice Hospital was notified around 8 p.m. Friday of the emergency situation at Jennie-0’s processing plant #4 at 1535 30th St. S.W. in Willmar and dispatched seven ambulances and a bus to the scene. Employees were not feeling well, exhibiting vomiting and respiratory symptoms, according to the press release.
While operations at the processing plant have returned to normal, the cause of illness remains unknown.
The company has "completed a thorough plant inspection with local fire officials and internal safety personnel and found no cause for the event," Pat Solheid, Jennie-O Turkey Store vice president of human resources and administration, said in a statement early Saturday.
The incident was originally thought to have been caused by a chemical leak, but tests for Carbon Dioxide, Carbon Monoxide and Ammonia did not reveal anything unusual, Brad Hanson, operations manager of Willmar Ambulance said.
He said Willmar Ambulance originally responded to a medical call and later requested more assistance.
“We started realizing more people were getting sick, so we called the fire department’s hazardous materials team,” said Hanson.
Responding to the incident were Willmar Police, Willmar Fire Department. Kandiyohi County Rescue, and ambulances from Willmar, Kerkhoven, Atwater, Raymond and New London.
Jennie-O has two processing plants located in Willmar and others in Faribault, Montevideo, Pelican Rapids and Barron, Wis.
Earlier this week a Jennie-O Turkey Store executive was part of a panel discuss on workplace wellness programs. Employee benefits manager Lori Tjaden said there that the company has 7,000 employees across its' seven production plants, farms, and other locations.
Jennie-O began in 1940 with owner Earl Olson raising turkeys, according to company website. The company opened its first processing plant in 1949 in Willmar. Based in Willmar, Jennie-O produces more than 1,500 products distributed in 27 countries.
The company was purchased by Hormel Foods Corporation in 1986. Jennie-O purchased The Turkey Store Company of Barron, Wis., in 2001.