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Listeria Scare Sparks Largest US Meat Recall

Oct 14, 2002 |

Pilgrim's Pride shares lost more than a third of their value on Monday after the company, the second-largest poultry producer in the US, announced the biggest recall of meat in US history.

The group is recalling more than 27m pounds of meat amid concerns of contamination with listeria. The move relates to cooked deli products produced at its Pennsylvania plant from May 1 to October 11 and marketed under the Wampler brand of poultry products and other private labels. The company has voluntarily halted production at the plant.

The shares fell $1.19 or 23 per cent to $4.01 in New York on Monday.

It has been one of the worst years in the US for food scares and could add to pressure for further regulation reform in food safety. In July, ConAgra was forced to recall nearly 19m lbs of ground beef the second-biggest such recall after at least 19 people fell ill with e-coli, a bacteria that can cause death.

Pilgrim's Pride acted after it learned that environmental sampling found a strain of listeria similar to that identified in an outbreak in the north-eastern US that has caused at least 23 deaths and 120 illnesses. About 2,500 cases of listeriosis occur annually in the US.

However, the company said: "Again, no illnesses associated with the listeria strain in the north-eastern US outbreak have been linked to any Wampler products." David Van Hoose, chief executive, said: "We are taking these precautionary steps because the safety and health of our consumers is our first concern. We're working diligently with the US Department of Agriculture and our customers to make sure any product that has not yet been consumed is removed from the marketplace and consumers' homes as quickly as possible."

Monday's move expands on a recall of 295,000lbs of product, which started on October 9 when Wampler Foods said, as a precaution, it would recall selected deli products such as turkey pastrami.

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