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Food preservative blamed for warehouse odor

JURUPA VALLEY, Calif. (AP) -- A food preservative is being blamed for a strong odor that sent at least 35 employees at a Southern California warehouse to the hospital.

Melody Hendrickson, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection in Riverside County, said Saturday that sodium benzoate was the cause of the fumes. The substance becomes an irritant when it becomes moist.

Hendrickson says none of those hospitalized were seriously injured in the Jurupa Valley incident late Friday.

The investigation is continuing at Swift Transportation, which was described by KCAL-TV as a distribution center for Wal-Mart and Sam's Club.

Nineteen employees who were overcome by the odor were taken to the hospital by ambulance. The rest were transported by bus.

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