Mama Cass Died Of It, And It Just Killed Again

1960’s pop icon Cass Elliot reportedly died from eating a ham sandwich – at least according to urban legend. Tons of North Carolina ham have just been recalled after a death attributed to listeria-tainted ham. (This caption has been corrected in regard to Mama Cass’s cause of death and the spelling or her last name.)

Listeria illnesses spur recall of ready-to-eat ham products; one person dead

Food Safety News – Smithfield, NC-based Johnston County Hams Inc. initiated a recall on Wednesday of more than 89,000 pounds of ready-to-eat ham in relation to Listeria monocytogenes infections. Some of the recalled products have a shelf life through September of next year.

“(The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service) FSIS is concerned that some product may be frozen and in consumers’ freezers. Consumers who have purchased these products are urged not to consume them. These products should be thrown away or returned to the place of purchase,” according to the recall notice.

FSIS posted the recall on Oct. 3, reporting the ham products were shipped to distributors in Maryland, North Carolina, New York, South Carolina and Virginia. The notice did not indicate if those distributors sent the ham to other states. When available, FSIS will post retail distribution information on its website at www.fsis.usda.gov/recalls.

The ready-to-eat ham items were produced from April 3, 2017, through Oct. 2, 2018. They all have the establishment number “EST. M2646” printed inside the USDA mark of inspection on their packaging. The FSIS posted photos of the products’ labels on its website.

To identify the recalled products, look for the following label information:

  • Varying weights of 7- to 8-pound plastic-wrapped packages of “JOHNSTON COUNTY HAMS, INC. COUNTRY STYLE FULLY COOKED BONELESS DELI HAM.”
  • Varying weights of 7- to 8-pound plastic-wrapped packages of “Ole Fashioned Sugar Cured The Old Dominion Brand Hams Premium Fully Cooked Country Ham” with sell-by dates from 4/10/2018 through 9/27/2019.
  • Varying weights of 7- to 8-pound plastic-wrapped packages of “Padow’s Hams & Deli Inc. FULLY COOKED COUNTRY HAM BONELESS Glazed with Brown Sugar.”
  • Varying weights of 7- to 8-pound plastic-wrapped packages of “Premium Fully Cooked Country Ham LESS SALT Distributed By: Valley Country Hams LLC” with Sell-By dates from 4/10/2018 to 9/27/2019.
  • Varying weights of 7- to 8-pound plastic-wrapped packages of “GOODNIGHT BROTHERS COUNTRY HAM Boneless Fully Cooked.”

A week before the recall, on Sept. 27, the FSIS received notification that a person ill with listeriosis reported consuming a ham product produced at Johnston County Hams. Listeriosis is an infection caused by the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes.

The USDA’s sub-agency has been working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state public health and agriculture officials on an investigation. The FSIS determined there is a link between the Listeria monocytogenes illnesses and ham products produced at Johnston County Hams.

The epidemiologic investigation identified four confirmed listeriosis illnesses, including one death, between July 8, 2017, and Aug. 11 this year.

FSIS had collected two ham product samples from the Johnston County Hams Inc. facility in 2016 and in early 2018. Whole genome sequencing results showed that Listeria monocytogenes identified in the ham from both years had the same DNA fingerprint as Listeria monocytogenes isolated from samples from the sick people.

Federal and state public health officials are working to determine if there are additional illnesses linked to these products and will provide updated information should it become available.

Advice for the public

Consumption of food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes can cause listeriosis, a serious infection that primarily affects older adults, persons with weakened immune systems, and pregnant women and their newborns. Less commonly, persons outside these risk groups are affected.

It can take more than two months after exposure for listeriosis symptoms to develop. Symptoms can include fever, muscle aches, headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance and convulsions, sometimes preceded by diarrhea or other gastrointestinal symptoms. An invasive infection spreads beyond the gastrointestinal tract.

In pregnant women, the infection can cause miscarriages, stillbirths, premature delivery or life-threatening infection of the newborn. In addition, serious and sometimes fatal infections in older adults and persons with weakened immune systems. Listeriosis is treated with antibiotics. People in the higher-risk categories who experience flu-like symptoms within two months after eating contaminated food should seek medical care and tell the health care provider about eating the contaminated food.

FSIS routinely conducts recall effectiveness checks to verify recalling firms notify their customers of the recall and that steps are taken to make certain that the product is no longer available to consumers.

Republished with permission of Food Safety News. To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.

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