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Tomato supplier for Sheetz ceases operations, blames bad publicity

Blaming adverse publicity from a salmonella outbreak this past summer that sickened more than 400 people, Coronet Foods said it was ceasing operations today at its plant in Wheeling, W.Va., leaving 220 workers without jobs.

The plant, which supplied bagged salads, vegetables and fruits to customers in about 20 states in New England, the Midwest and the mid-Atlantic region, informed its workers at the close of business yesterday.

Coronet distributed sliced Roma tomatoes used in sandwiches sold at Sheetz convenience stores. About 330 Pennsylvanians who ate the sandwiches got sick with salmonella, and the outbreak is believed to have sickened another 80 people in nearby states.

Coronet Foods, which has operated in Wheeling for nearly 40 years, was unable to find buyers or partners that would allow the business to continue.

Marler’s Seattle-based firm has filed three lawsuits as a result of the outbreak, all targeting Coronet. He said the company’s decision to go out of business would not affect the lawsuits.

"Coronet has enough insurance to resolve all the claims," he said. "We’re hopeful we can eventually get through this, either by litigation or settlement."