Tuesday evening the Audrain County Health Department and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services initiated an 'embargo' of all food, drugs, and cosmetics from Mexico's County Market grocery store stemming from complaints and concerns of possible asbestos dust present on packages during the ongoing remodeling of the store.
An 'embargo' means that all products are held and cannot be used until further testing and/or deliberation is finished. As a result, the food permit and local business licenses were suspended requiring the closing of the store.
"There is no cause for alarm," Audrain County Health Department Director Kevin Lowrance said. "That being said, the public should always follow proper safety and food handling precautions. If there is dust on packages or on food, wash it carefully before use."
Preliminary tests on floor tiling removed from the store did show the presence of low quantities of asbestos. Air quality tests, however, showed no contamination of air inside the store. Residual dust found on food products was determined not to present a problem.
Niemann Foods, Inc., Director of Consumer Affairs Gerry Kettler provided the following statement: "In the process of our remodel we discovered a substance in the floor tile that we were removing that was deemed unsafe. In conjunction with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources we have made the decision to close the store while we remove the remaining tile We will also take this opportunity to complete the remodel prior to reopening. We will announce a re-opening date soon."
Lowrance emphasized that following completion of the remodeling the city will examine the area completely before reissuing food permits and the city business license. "We will handle it correctly," he said. "This is about keeping the public safe."
Niemann Foods, Inc. took over the store in April and the renovations of the store began this past summer.