A multistate outbreak of Listeria infections linked to ham, including one death, has triggered Johnston County Hams of Smithfield, North Carolina, to recall nearly 90,000 pounds of ready-to-eat ham products.
Federal and state health officials say the outbreak of listeriosis has sickened at least three people in North Carolina and Virginia and has been linked to one death in Virginia. Ongoing investigations of the outbreak are being led by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, and health officials in the affected states.
Listeria illnesses are relatively rare compared to other forms of foodborne illnesses, but Listeria monocytogenes – the bacteria that causes the infections – can be particularly deadly, especially for pregnant women and fetuses, young children, people age 65 and older, and those with frail health or weakened immune systems.
The ham products being recalled include ready-to-eat deli ham products weighing between seven and eight pounds. The hams were produced between April 3, 2017, and Oct. 2, 2018, and distributed to various retailers in North Carolina, South Carolina, New York, Maryland, and Virginia.
The recalled products were plastic-wrapped with the establishment number EST. M2646 inside the USDA inspection mark and sold under various brand names:
- Varying weights of 7- to 8-lbs. plastic-wrapped “JOHNSTON COUNTY HAMS, INC. COUNTRY STYLE FULLY COOKED BONELESS DELI HAM.”
- Varying weights of 7- to 8-lbs. plastic-wrapped “Ole Fashioned Sugar Cured The Old Dominion Brand Hams Premium Fully Cooked Country Ham” with Sell-By dates from 4/10/2018 to 9/27/2019.
- Varying weights of 7- to 8-lbs. plastic-wrapped “Padow’s Hams & Deli, Inc. FULLY COOKED COUNTRY HAM BONELESS Glazed with Brown Sugar.”
- Varying weights of 7- to 8-lbs. plastic-wrapped “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-lbs. plastic-wrapped “GOODNIGHT BROTHERS COUNTRY HAM Boneless Fully Cooked.”
The CDC urges anyone who has the recalled ham products to avoid eating them. Customers should throw them out or return them to the store of purchase for a refund.
According to the CDC, Listeria sickens about 1,600 people in the U.S. each year, resulting in an estimated 260 deaths – a higher than 16 percent mortality rate.
Listeriosis usually manifests as fever and muscle aches, sometimes preceded by diarrhea, nausea, cramps, and other gastrointestinal symptoms. Almost everyone who is diagnosed with listeriosis has developed an “invasive” infection, in which the bacteria spread beyond the gastrointestinal tract.
Among those most predisposed to Listeria infection, the mortality rate can be as high as 30 percent. In these cases, the infection spreads through the bloodstream to the nervous system and brain, resulting in bacterial meningitis and other potentially fatal problems.