Meat Recall: What Are The Dangers Of Listeria?

By Philip Ross on April 14, 2013 3:25 PM EDT

meat recall
Louisiana-based Manda Packing Company recalled more than 468,000 pounds, or 234 tons, of meat over the weekend, ranging from turkey to roast beef and ham. (Photo: Flickr/mindsafari)

Meat recall: The Louisiana-based Manda Packing Company issued a recall over the weekend of 468,000 pounds of its meat. The company said the meat might be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, a bacterium that can cause a potentially fatal infection in humans, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, or USDA.

The meat recall came after last week's USDA-led inspection of random meat samples found that the meat contained traces of the dangerous bacterium.

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The Extent Of The Meat Recall

According to Food Safety News, the recall began Wednesday, April 10, with just over 20,000 pounds of roast beef being pulled from stores. But three days later, on Saturday, the recall was expanded to include over 234 tons of meat. Washington Post reports that the recall includes eight different types of meat with various "sell-by" dates under 41 different names. The potentially affected meat products include roast beef, ham, corned beef, pastrami, turkey breast and Tasso pork, among others.

The massive meat recall affects states in the southeast and Midwest U.S., with the potentially contaminated meat having been distributed throughout Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.

"We are committed to work with USDA in reviewing and enhancing our food safety system so we can continue to ensure that our products are safe, wholesome and worthy of our brand name," Josh Yarborough, director of quality assurance for Manda, said in a statement on Saturday.

So far, there have been no reports of illness linked with the contaminated meat.

What Are The Dangers Of Listeria Contamination?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, listeriosis is a serious infection caused by exposure to food contaminated with the Listeria monocytogenes bacteria. Symptoms of listeriosis include fever and muscle aches, sometimes accompanied by diarrhea or other adverse stomach conditions. Additional symptoms can include headache, stiff neck, confusion, convulsions and loss of balance.

Those most at risk of infection from Listeria are older adults, pregnant women, infants and adults with weakened immune systems; pregnant women can even miscarry or experience premature delivery.

The CDC reports that there are about 1,600 cases of listeriosis every year in the U.S. Between 1998 and 2008, there was an average of 2.4 outbreaks of listeriosis per year reported to the CDC. The largest outbreak between those years was in 2002 when contaminated turkey deli meat caused 54 people to become ill. Additionally, the outbreak, which spanned nine states, killed eight people and caused three fetal deaths.

An even worse outbreak occurred in 2011 when 28 states reported a total of 139 persons infected with listeriosis. Twenty-nine deaths occurred. The culprit was cantaloupe from Jensen Farms.

Symptoms of listeriosis can crop up two months after ingestion of contaminated food occurs. Listeriosis is treated with antibiotics.

How A Meat Recall Works

Recalls are monitored by the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service, or FSIS, the U.S. public health agency responsible for making sure that meat and poultry products are properly labeled and safe for consumption.

The purpose of a food recall is to remove possibly contaminated products from grocery stores and other places of commerce. According to FSIS, recalls are voluntary and are issued by the food distributor or manufacturer, sometimes at the request of the FSIS. However, if the company fails to issue a recommended recall, the FSIS is authorized to carry out the recall and seize any contaminated product.

The FSIS says that "Open Dating," the sell-by" or "use-by" date we see on packaged goods in grocery stores, is not actually mandated by the federal government and is required only on infant formula. The dates are there to help grocery stores determine how long to keep a product on its shelves as well as to help consumers decide when to use the product by. Twenty states, however, do require dating on some food products, usually on perishable foods like meat, poultry, eggs and dairy.

Unless there's an explicite "use-by" date on the package, food is still good for a period of time after the date listed on packaged foods, assuming it is properly stored. This timeframe ranges from a few days to several weeks, depending on the product.

Read more from iScience Times:

Birth Control Pill Recall: Why Is Alysena-28 Being Yanked From Shelves?

E. Coli Outbreak Taint 10 Million Pounds Of Frozen Food; What Products Are Recalled?

Yoga Pants Recall: Are Lululemon Pants Too Sexy?

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