OCT. 14–PHILADELPHIA, PA–At press time, possible listeria contamination had forced Wampler Foods to begin recalling more than 27 million pounds of meat, the largest recall to date in the history of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the agency reports.
The production halt and the recall of all cooked deli products follows an October 9 recall of more than 295,000 pounds of turkey and chicken products at Wampler’s plant in Franconia, PA.
The company voluntarily expanded the recall to all cooked deli products made from May 1 through Oct. 11 and halted production at the facility, located about 25 miles north of Philadelphia, after receiving test results of samples taken from floor drains.
“We want consumers to be aware of the recall because of the potential for foodborne illness,” says Dr. Garry L. McKee, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) administrator. “Diners may also wish to ask if their meals contain the recalled products.”
The national recall is the largest in the history of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, says FSIS service spokesman Steven Cohen and comes on the heels of a 19 million pound recall of ground beef that was contaminated with E. coli and manufactured by Greeley, CO-based ConAgra Co.
[See “E. coli- triggered recall sparks tighter contamination control measures at ConAgra, leanRooms, September 2002, p. 1].
Each package being recalled bears the plant number P-1351 inside the USDA mark of inspection and a production date. Wampler officials say the recall didn’t include fresh turkeys and that it should have no effect on the holiday season.
The discovery was the result of a scientific investigation into the cause of illnesses, deaths and miscarriages in the Northeast from the listeria strain, according the FSIS.
No Wampler product have been linked to that outbreak, David Van Hoose, Wampler’s chief executive officer, told The Associated Press.
At least 120 illnesses and 20 deaths were caused by listeria in eight Northeast states since last summer. The genetic strain that caused those illnesses is different than the strain found at the plant, officials say.
“We don’t have any scientific evidence at this point that there is a connection, but our analysis of sampling in that plant is not complete,” Cohen says.
The deli products were sold to consumers in retail groceries, delicatessens and food service distributors under the Wampler Foods and select private labels.
Company officials say consumers who had cooked meats produced during the recall period should return
the meats to where they were purchased.
Listeria can cause high fever, severe headache, neck stiffness and nausea, according to the USDA. It can be fatal in young children, the elderly and people with weak immune systems and can cause miscarriages and stillbirths.
Van Hoose adds that plant workers will receive training and the plant will be cleaned before production resumes.
The meat being recalled makes up roughly six percent of the company’s total turkey production. The company, part of Pilgrim’s Pride Corp, of in Pittsburgh, Texas, did not say how much revenue it would lose as a result of the shutdown.