A multistate outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes infections
with 46 culture-confirmed cases, seven deaths, and three stillbirths or miscarriages
in eight states has been linked to eating sliceable turkey deli meat. Cases
have been reported from Pennsylvania (14 cases), New York (11 in New York
City and seven in other locations), New Jersey (five), Delaware (four), Maryland
(two), Connecticut (one), Massachusetts (one), and Michigan (one). Culture
dates ranged from July 18 to September 30, 2002; case-finding is ongoing.
Outbreak isolates share a relatively uncommon pulsed-field gel electrophoresis
One intact food product and 25 environmental samples from a poultry
processing plant have yielded L. monocytogenes. The
isolate from the food product had a PFGE pattern different from the outbreak
strain; however, two environmental isolates from floor drains shared a PFGE
pattern indistinguishable from that of outbreak patient isolates, suggesting
that the plant might be the source of the outbreak. The investigation to identify
a definite source or sources for this outbreak is ongoing.
On the basis of these findings, the plant, operated by Pilgrim's Pride
Foods and located in Franconia, Pennsylvania, recalled 27.4 million lbs. of
fresh and frozen ready-to-eat turkey and chicken products on October 12, and
the company voluntarily suspended operations. The products subject to this
recall were produced during May 1–October 11. A list of recalled products
is available at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/oa/recalls/prelease/pr090-2002products.htm.
Eating food contaminated with L. monocytogenes can
result in listeriosis, an uncommon but potentially fatal disease. The majority
of listeriosis cases occur among pregnant women, the elderly, and persons
with weakened immune systems. Illness in pregnant women can result in miscarriage,
stillbirth, or severe illness or death of a newborn infant. Listeriosis begins
often with influenza-like symptoms, and sometimes with diarrhea, which might
occur within 1 week after eating contaminated food. Symptoms might progress
to include high fever, severe headache, and neck stiffness. Additional information
about listeriosis, including high-risk foods and protective measures, is available
Consumers should avoid eating recalled products and should return them
to the place of purchase. The risk for developing Listeria infection after eating a contaminated product is low. If a person
has eaten a recalled product and does not have any symptoms, no tests or treatment
are needed, even if the person is in a high-risk group. However, persons who
become ill with fever or have signs of serious illness suggestive of listeriosis
within 1 month after eating sliced deli turkey meat should consult a health-care
provider and provide information about this exposure. Physicians and clinical
laboratories should report cases of listeriosis immediately to state health
departments, and public health laboratories should expedite processing of L. monocytogenes samples.
Philadelphia Dept of Public Health. New York City Dept of Health and
Mental Hygiene. Pennsylvania Dept of Health. New York State Dept of Health.
New Jersey Dept of Health and Senior Svcs. Delaware Health and Social Svcs.
Maryland Dept of Health and Mental Hygiene. Connecticut Dept of Public Health.
Michigan Dept of Community Health. Massachusetts Dept of Public Health. Food
Safety and Inspection Svc, US Dept of Agriculture. Div of Bacterial and Mycotic
Diseases, National Center for Infectious Diseases, CDC.
Outbreak of Listeriosis—Northeastern United States, 2002. JAMA. 2002;288(18):2260. doi:10.1001/jama.288.18.2260