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Kellogg fined after Eggo waffle factory released toxic gas into surrounding neighborhood

A Kellogg's factory in San Jose, California, that makes Eggo waffles must pay an $85,000 fine after leaking toxic ammonia into the surrounding neighborhood and not immediately reporting it, state officials say.

The Kellogg's brand was found guilty of criminal negligence for the incident that occurred on January 22, 2021, according to the District Attorney's Office in Santa Clara County. 

"Public safety and the environment are threatened with every passing minute in these cases," Deputy District Attorney Jason Bussey said in a statement. "When companies fail to immediately report a release, they face serious consequences."

The release happened when a worker on a scissor lift damaged a pipe that began leaking anhydrous ammonia, a toxic gas that can cause severe injury or death, according to Bussey's office. Eggo managers did not call 911 for more than an hour, thinking the leak had been stopped. 

The delay contributed to an emergency in which about 3,400 pounds of the gas escaped, forcing residents in the area to shelter in place while emergency responders stopped the leak. No injuries were reported.

Anhydrous ammonia is commonly used as a refrigerant in food processing, and Eggo uses the substance to freeze its waffles. 

Since the incident, Kellogg has "made a number of significant enhancements to our processes and protocols to ensure we have the safest possible environment for our employees and neighbors," a spokesperson told CBS MoneyWatch in an email.

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