A New Jersey company under investigation for a listeriosis outbreak is expanding a nationwide recall of chicken and turkey meat to 4.2 million pounds, the Agriculture Department announced Thursday.
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.
The company said in a statement that it is cooperating with inspectors to determine where the meat became contaminated.
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,” said Garry L. McKee, administrator for the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.
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.
A month ago, 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.
The 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. The agency often has been criticized by consumer groups and congressional members for being too soft on the industry.