N.J. company launches meat recall

NOV. 21–CAMDEN, NJ–A New Jersey company already under investigation for a listeriosis outbreak is expanding a nationwide recall of chicken and turkey meat to 4.2 million pounds, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced today.

Jack Lambersky Poultry Company Inc., of Camden, N.J., is pulling the ready-to-eat meat packaged between May 29 and Nov. 2 because it may be contaminated with listeria, a harmful bacterium. The company, which does business as J.L. Foods, initially recalled 200,000 pounds of the meat on Nov. 2. The products were distributed to stores and institutions across the country.

Federal inspectors are uncertain if the bacterium found in the recalled meat matches the strain linked to the outbreak in the Northeast which sickened 52 people, killing seven and causing three miscarriages.

Investigators still are analyzing a sample taken Nov. 14 from meat sliced and sold at a business in Brooklyn, N.Y., according to the Agriculture Department.

In a statement, the company said that it is cooperating with inspectors to determine where the contamination occurred.

Listeria can cause flu-like symptoms, including fever, muscle aches and diarrhea. It can thrive in low temperatures, tainting refrigerated processed foods, such as sandwich meat and soft cheese. Pregnant women, the elderly, children, and people with weak immune systems are the most vulnerable to infection.

”Consumers should check their refrigerators and freezers for products involved in this recall and return them to the point of purchase,” says Garry L. McKee, administrator for the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

J.L. Foods is one of two companies so far that have issued recalls in connection with the listeria investigation. Wampler Foods, owned by Pilgrim’s Pride, is the other.

Last month, investigators found a strain of listeria that matched the one blamed for the outbreak in a floor drain at the Wampler Foods plant in Pennsylvania, prompting the company to recall 27 million pounds the largest recall.

Just three months earlier, a recall of 19 million pounds of ground beef from ConAgra Co. (Greeley, CO) due to E. coli contamination had been ranked as the second largest. Inmates at three Colorado prisons had been served the possibly tainted meat, while 28 people had fallen ill in California, Colorado, Michigan, South Dakota, Washington and Wyoming. While many were hospitalized, all were treated and released.

Before the Wampler recall, the largest recall in USDA history was 25 million pounds of ground beef produced by Hudson Foods in 1997. That recall sparked a Congressional effort to increase the number of inspections and tighten safety standards in meat packing plants.

That effort, however, has been successfully blocked by the meat industry, and consumer groups and congressional members often criticize federal agencies for being too soft on the industry.

The J.L. Foods investigation, led by the USDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is continuing.

McKee and other USDA officials have warned the meat and poultry industry in the past few months that the department will enforce food safety laws to protect public health. Consumers with questions about the recall can call Kenneth Martin, general manager for J.L. Foods Company, at: (800) 881-3250. A list of the pulled products is available on the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service Web site.


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