SUTTON, Mass. (AP) – The owners of a milk processing plant linked to a listeria outbreak that resulted in the deaths of three people have decided not to reopen the facility.

Wayne Whittier, owner of the Whittier Farms plant in Shrewsbury, told the Worcester Telegram and Gazette on Thursday that he was forced to close the plant because of the high cost of decontaminating it, as well as a drop in business at a retail store there.

Three men died of listeriosis contracted after drinking contaminated milk in December. A pregnant woman became ill and miscarried.

Public health officials identified various strains of listeria in milk samples and on equipment at the plant. But they still haven’t determined the precise source of the contamination, despite studying more than 100 samples.

“The final results of the tests from the state – instead of narrowing it down – the area kept getting bigger,” Whittier said. “It made it extremely hard for us, because we still don’t have answers.”

Whittier said that state health officials also gave the family a list of 15 things to do at the plant before it could reopen, including some steps that would be quite costly.

The plant closed in late December, and people just assumed the retail store was also closed, Whittier added.

The family will sell the milk from the cows on its Sutton farm to other processors.

AP-ES-02-01-08 1138EST


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