chicken in listeria outbreak
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Fully Cooked Chicken in Listeria monocytogenes Outbreak

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One death has been reported in a Listeria  monocytogenes outbreak that appears to be linked to precooked chicken served in health care facilities, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) posted a warning notice online, which was last updated July 9, noting that there have been three illnesses and one death reported in two states since its investigation linking “Listeria monocytogenes illnesses to precooked chicken produced at Tyson Foods Inc.” started in June. 

Frozen, fully cooked chicken products, such as chicken strips and diced chicken, and products made with fully cooked chicken, supplied by Tyson Foods Inc.

  • Shipped nationwide to retailers and institutions including hospitals, nursing facilities, restaurants, schools, and Department of Defense locations
  • Products include chicken strips, pulled chicken, diced chicken, chicken wing sections, fully cooked pizza with chicken, and chicken salad sandwiches
  • Brands include Tyson, Jet’s Pizza, Casey’s General Store, Marco’s Pizza, Little Caesars, and Circle K
  • Many of the recalled products have the establishment number “EST. P-7089” on the product bag or inside the USDA mark of inspection

Tyson Foods Inc., a Dexter, Mo. establishment, is recalling approximately 8,955,296 pounds of ready-to-eat (RTE) chicken products that may be adulterated with Listeria monocytogenes, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

On June 9, 2021, FSIS was notified of two persons ill with listeriosis. Working in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state public health partners, FSIS determined there is evidence linking the Listeria monocytogenes illnesses to precooked chicken produced at Tyson Foods Inc. The epidemiologic investigation identified three listeriosis illnesses, including one death, between April 6, 2021 and June 5, 2021. During routine sample collection, FSIS collected two precooked chicken samples from two establishments that are closely related genetically to Listeria monocytogenes from ill people. One of the samples was collected at Tyson Foods Inc. FSIS is continuing to work with federal and state public health partners to determine if there are additional illnesses linked to these products.

Read the full announcement here

Listeria monocytogenes

Listeria monocytogenes is a gram-positive, rod-shaped bacterium, and are most infamous for surviving and even growing well in refrigeration temperature ranges. This bacterium affects foods such as raw chicken, dairy, processed (deli) meats as well as smoked seafood. This bacteria can also survive in oxygen-poor conditions, meaning even vacuum-packed foods are not free from concerns.

This Listeria monocytogenes bacterium is known as an opportunistic pathogen, meaning those that are already ill or have a low immune system are most likely to suffer from an infection. Listeria monocytogenes is a food-borne illness-causing bacteria. The disease is known as Listeriosis. Listeria monocytogenes is often isolated in cattle, sheep, and fowl, and is also found in dairy products, fruits, and vegetables.

What are the Symptoms of Listeria Infection?

A person with Listeriosis usually has a fever, muscle aches, and gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea or diarrhoea. If the infection spreads to the nervous system, symptoms such as headache, stiff neck, loss of balance, confusion or convulsions can occur. With brain involvement, Listeriosis may mimic a stroke.

Infected pregnant women will ordinarily experience only a mild, flu-like illness; however, infection during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, infection of the newborn or even stillbirth. Pregnant women are about 20 times more likely than other healthy adults to get Listeriosis.

More about Listeria monocytogenes

L.monocytogenes is in some ways a super germ, in that is can grow and survive at cold temperatures up to 0°C (32°F), meaning L.monocytogenes will grow in your fridge. However, this germ can be killed by relatively low heat from 50°C (122°F) versus E.coli which needs +65°C (149°F)  to be killed.

This seems like a relief right? Just cook your food, and done. Right? Unfortunately not…

Foods affected by Listeria monocytogenes

  • Pre-packed salads (salad items)
  • Smoked seafood
  • Soft cheeses
  • Deli meats & Viennas
  • Raw milk and other dairies
  • Certain vegetables
  • Raw chicken!

Traditionally foods that are not cooked or reheated, except in the case of raw chicken and viennas. Most cases worldwide come from manufacturing and processing, after cooking has occurred, telling us that cross-contamination is the main culprit.

In the commerical kitchen, L.monocytogenes is often found in the floor drains and cooling units of fridges and cold rooms. At home ensuring the basin drains are regularly cleaned and disinfected is essential.

Why is Listeria important in food safety?

The largest outbreak of Listeria happening in South Africa in 2017/18. This is the largest known case to have cause death as a result of food poisoning.

Listeriosis Outbreak in South Africa Officially Over

The Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi announced that the Listeriosis outbreak has drawn to close. 

This, after the initial announcement of the outbreak on 5 December 2017 had resulted in 1 060 confirmed laboratory cases and the total death count of 216.

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