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Listeria Threat Prompts Sandwich Recall

Dec 1, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP

Another recall over possible listeria contamination has just been announced.  The DigitalJournal.com is reporting that the U.S. Department of Agriculture's  (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced that Home Market Foods, Inc. of Massachusetts is recalling 5,250 pounds of ready-to-eat frozen beef sandwich portions: "Blimpie FULLY COOKED SEASONED BEEF SHAVED STEAKS THINLY SLICED WITH ONIONS.”

Listeria is a bacterium found in soil, vegetation, raw milk, meat, poultry, cheeses (particularly soft mold-ripened varieties), and salad vegetables as well as in animals and humans.  It is estimated that about 2,500 cases of listeria occur in the U.S. annually with about 200 in every 1000 cases resulting in death.  Listeria monocytogenes can grow at low temperatures, even in refrigerated environments.  Thorough cooking of food and milk pasteurization can destroy the Listeria bacteria.  Listeria often invades the body through a normal and intact gastrointestinal tract and, once in the body, can travel through the blood stream.  The bacteria are often found inside cells where toxins are produced resulting in damaged cells.

Listeria symptoms can develop in days or weeks and can vary from a mild flu-like illness to meningitis and septicemia; pregnant women can experience anything from miscarriage, still birth, or birth of an infected child.  Pregnant women are about 20 times likelier than others to be infected with about one-third of listeriosis cases occurring during pregnancy; the incidence of listeriosis in newborns is 8.6 per 100,000 live births and the perinatal and neonatal mortality rate (stillbirths and early infant deaths) is 80%.  Those with compromised immune systems, the very young, and the very old are also at risk.  All at-risk individuals are advised to avoid certain foods, such as soft mold-ripened cheeses and pates, given those foods’ high incidence of being linked to listeria infection.

DigitalJournal.com reports that the recalled "Blimpie FULLY COOKED SEASONED BEEF SHAVED STEAKS THINLY SLICED WITH ONIONS” were produced in 3.5-ounce sizes of individually wrapped packages, with each label bearing the establishment number "EST. 2727" within the USDA mark of inspection and a printed Julian date of either "3198," "3228," or "3238," on those products available for consumer purchase.  The recalled sandwiches  were produced on November 14, 17, 18, and 20, 2008; and were distributed to retail institutions in the Atlanta metropolitan area, California, Florida, Illinois, and New York.  

The possible contamination was revealed during company testing.  FSIS has received no reports of illnesses associated with consumption of this product, said the DigitalJournal.com.  Consumers can contact the firm’s Customer Relations Manager, Deborah Schoeller,  for more information at (781) 948-1585.  Media should contact company President Wes Atamian at (781) 948-1502.

To avoid listeria contamination, consumers are generally advised to thoroughly cook raw food from animal sources; keep uncooked meats separate from vegetables and from cooked and ready-to-eat foods, such as the recalled sandwiches; avoid unpasteurized (raw) milk or foods made from unpasteurized milk; wash hands, knives, and cutting boards after handling uncooked foods; wash raw vegetables thoroughly before eating; and consume perishable and ready-to-eat foods as soon as possible and within their expiration dates.


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