Second poultry plant linked with listeriosis outbreak in Northeast

Nov 5, 2002 (CIDRAP News) Ð A second poultry processing plant has been linked by DNA fingerprinting to the multistate listeriosis outbreak in the Northeast, and two other plants are being investigated in connection with the outbreak, according to federal health officials.

J. L. Foods Co. Inc., Camden, N.J., suspended production and recalled 200,000 pounds of ready-to-eat poultry products in the wake of a finding that some products were contaminated with the strain of Listeria monocytogenes associated with the outbreak, the US Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced Nov 2. And yesterday, FSIS officials said two other plants were being investigated but did not name the plants.

In October, two environmental samples from a Wampler Foods poultry plant in Franconia, Pa., were found to contain the outbreak strain of L monocytogenes. One product sample from the plant also tested positive for L monocytogenes, but it did not match the outbreak strain. The company recalled 27.4 million pounds of meat, the largest US meat recall on record.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the outbreak has caused 50 cases, with seven deaths and three miscarriages or stillbirths. In its last update on the outbreak, in mid-October, the agency had cited 46 cases.

The FSIS said some ready-to-eat poultry products produced at the J. L. Foods plant between Jun 27 and Jul 3 were contaminated with the outbreak strain of L monocytogenes. The company distributes its products through retail stores and institutions nationwide, the agency said.

Andrea McNally, an FSIS spokeswoman in Washington, DC, told CIDRAP News that the contaminated product samples came from the plant, not from patients' homes. The FSIS investigated the plant because of information gathered by the CDC in its epidemiologic investigation, which included interviews with patients, she said. Specifics on how many contaminated product samples were found and how many patients had eaten products from the plant were not available today from the FSIS or CDC.

McNally said the FSIS is also testing environmental samples from the New Jersey plant and expects to have the results this week.

FSIS officials revealed yesterday that they are investigating two other meat processing plants for Listeria, also on the basis of information the CDC gathered from patients. McNally said she couldn't name the plants.

The CDC said the listeriosis outbreak has involved eight states, with 14 cases in Pennsylvania, 20 in New York, 5 in New Jersey, 4 in Delaware, 3 in Massachusetts, 2 in Maryland, and 1 each in Michigan and Connecticut. The latest patient became ill Oct 9. Sixteen of the patients were older than 64, and 14 of those younger than 64 had an immunocompromising condition.

The CDC said it has investigated another 81 cases of listeriosis that occurred in the same region and time frame as the genetically linked cases but involved different strains of L monocytogenes. Twenty of those patients died.

See also:

FSIS news release (Nov 2)

CDC news release (Nov 4)

FSIS list of products recalled by J. L. Foods

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