Coolant Leak Causes Maine Frozen Food Woes

April 12, 2010

Most of the 29 companies that stored food that was potentially contaminated by an ammonia leak at the Americold freezer facility are awaiting legal guidance, insurance reimbursements and laboratory test results before deciding what to do with the millions of pounds of food.

Electricity to the 150,000-square-foot facility was cut and residents evacuated as emergency responders vented ammonia from the building following the leak on Jan. 22.

Since then, the Maine Department of Agriculture has prevented businesses from removing their products without permission.

The companies must prove that their food is safe before it can be released, Hal Prince of the Maine Department of Agriculture told the Portland Press Herald. Food intended for sale outside of Maine would need further approvals from federal regulators.

Three companies — Barber Foods, Kraft Foods and RFS Ltd. — have destroyed their products.

The other companies hope their claims will be paid by Americold’s insurer. Americold didn’t return a message left at its Atlanta headquarters.

Sunrise County Wild Blueberry co-op in Cherryfield, which had a year’s worth of berries stored at Americold, is awaiting payment from Americold’s insurance carrier and the advice of its attorney. Sunrise County did not have its own insurance covering damage to its product in storage.

Another blueberry company, Cherryfield Foods, has hired a laboratory to test its blueberries and cranberries to determine whether they are contaminated.

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