An investigative report on a Michael Foods plant that aired on WCCO news over the weekend has generated concern among residents in northern Chaska who could soon be living next to the new potato processing plant.
Michael Foods purchased the old Mammoth building late last year and is currently in the process of renovating it in order to move its potato processing operations to Chaska.
The city lobbied hard for the Northern Star plant move and the 400 jobs it would bring to the area. They offered parent company Michael Foods an incentives package including a reduction of water usage fees, an additional entrance on 82nd Street and the city’s application on behalf of the company for the state’s low-interest loan dollars.
The television news report revealed problems with the company’s existing Minneapolis Northern Star plant that included claims of rodents, roaches, black mold and listeria, in addition to ongoing odor complaints from the surrounding neighborhood.
The company issued a voluntary recall of six of its potato products last Friday after a lab discovered listeria bacteria in a sample of its hash browns.
Tom Jagiela, senior vice president of operations for Michael Foods, spoke at Monday night’s City Council meeting to address concerns about the television report and make assurances that their Chaska facility would not face similar problems.
He acknowledged that odor is a major issue at the Minneapolis location, but did not anticipate an odor problem in Chaska, claiming they would be using a different filtering system and removing waste from the facility on a daily basis.
A resident asked Jagiela if their process has “any odor at all.”
“No, not really,” Jagiela replied. “We blanche, but we don’t cook. There’s a big difference between blanching and fully cooking the product.”
City Engineer Bill Monk explained that Michael Foods would be required to have an odor emissions permit, adding that there are “very defined standards they have to meet.”