The Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) announced on Monday, July 5, that the State has confirmed one case of listeria associated with a multistate outbreak of listeria monocytogenes infections linked to recalled Tyson Foods ready-to-eat chicken products. Two other cases had been confirmed in Texas.
(Due to the small numbers of cases overall and to protect the privacy of all patients, DPH will not provide additional information about its specific case, officials noted.)
Listeria can cause severe illness (known as invasive listeriosis) when the bacteria spread beyond the gut to other parts of the body. Pregnant people, adults 65 or older, and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk for severe illness.
The frozen, fully cooked chicken products were produced between Dec. 26, 2020, and April 13, 2021. The products that are subject to recall are listed on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s website at https://www.fsis.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media_file/2021-07/Tyson%27s%20Product%20List%20Final.pdf. Labels can be seen at https://www.fsis.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media_file/2021-07/recall-023-2021-labels.pdf.
The products subject to recall bear establishment number “EST. P-7089” on the product bag or inside the USDA mark of inspection. Products include frozen, fully-cooked chicken strips; diced chicken; chicken wing sections; and fully cooked pizza with chicken; and were sold under many brands, including Tyson, Jet’s Pizza, Casey’s General Store, Marco’s Pizza and Little Caesars.
The items were shipped nationwide to retailers and institutions, including hospitals, nursing facilities, restaurants, schools and Department of Defense locations. There is also concern that some products may be in both consumer and institutional freezers, officials noted.
DPH has begun notifying any known facilities that received the products to ensure they are aware of the recall, issued Friday, July 3, as well as notifying institutional settings in general. They have been instructed to not serve, and to discard, the impacted products.
Consumers who have the product in their freezers should also either throw the product away or return it to the place of purchase. Listeria monocytogenes is a hardy organism that can withstand a wide range of conditions, including freezing, drying, heat, and relatively high levels of acid, salinity and alcohol. Unlike most foodborne pathogens, it can grow at standard refrigerator temperature (40°F), which makes it a particular problem in ready-to-eat foods that are not cooked before eating, officials said.
Symptoms of severe illness usually start one to four weeks after eating contaminated food. However, symptoms can start as late as 10 weeks after. They can include headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance and convulsions, in addition to fever and muscle aches. Listeria can also cause common food poisoning symptoms, such as diarrhea and fever. People who experience those symptoms usually recover without treatment.
Pregnant people usually experience only fever, fatigue and muscle aches. However, listeria can cause pregnancy loss or premature birth. It can also cause serious illness or death in newborns.
Those who have symptoms after eating recalled products should contact a healthcare provider right away if they have symptoms.
The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) issued a Food Safety Alert on July 3 after an epidemiologic investigation identified three listeriosis illnesses, including one death, between April 6 and June 5. The death occurred in Texas. This outbreak may be much larger than the current number of known patients, officials cautioned. The products recalled were served all over the country. In addition, some people who contract listeria infections do not seek medical care and recover on their own, so are not tested.
Final results linking individual cases of Listeria to the outbreak take approximately two to four weeks to be reported to the states, so additional Delaware cases could be linked to this outbreak through genetic sequencing.
Consumers with food safety questions can call the toll-free USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or live chat via Ask USDA from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Consumers can also browse food safety messages at Ask USDA or send a question via email to MPHotline@usda.gov.
Tyson also has a hotline that consumers can call or text, at 1-855-382-3101. Customer service representatives will be available through Friday, July 9, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. CDT.
Food safety tips
To prevent the opportunity for food-borne illnesses to occur, follow the CDC’s four steps for food safety: Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill.
- Clean hands and cooking surfaces:
▫ Wash hands for 20 seconds with soap and water before, during and after preparing food, and before eating.
▫ Wash utensils, cutting boards and countertops with hot, soapy water.
▫ Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running water.
- Separate raw foods from ready-to-eat foods:
▫ Use separate cutting boards and plates for raw meat, poultry and seafood.
▫ Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs separate from all other foods in the fridge.
- Cook to the right internal temperature
▫ Food is safely cooked when the internal temperature gets high enough to kill germs that can make people sick. The only way to tell if food is safely cooked is to use a food thermometer. You can’t tell if food is safely cooked by checking its color and texture.
▫ Use a food thermometer to ensure foods are cooked to a safe internal temperature. Check this chart for a detailed list of foods and temperatures:
▪ 145°F for whole cuts of beef, pork, veal, and lamb (then allow the meat to rest for 3 minutes before carving or eating);
▪ 160°F for ground meats, such as beef and pork;
▪ 165°F for all poultry, including ground chicken and turkey;
▪ 145°F for fresh ham (raw); and
▪ 145°F for finfish or cook until flesh is opaque.
- Chill foods in refrigerator promptly:
▫ Bacteria can multiply rapidly if left at room temperature or between 40°F and 140°F.
▫ Never leave perishable food out for more than 2 hours (or 1 hour if it’s hotter than 90°F outside).
▫ Keep your refrigerator at 40°F or below and know when to throw food out.
▫ Thaw frozen food safely in the refrigerator, in cold water or in the microwave. Never thaw foods on the counter, because bacteria multiply quickly in the parts of the food that reach room temperature.
For more information about the CDC’s multi-state outbreak investigation, visit: https://www.cdc.gov/listeria/outbreaks/precooked-chicken-07-21/index.html. For more information about the Tyson Foods recall, visit: https://www.fsis.usda.gov/recalls-alerts/tyson-foods-inc.-recalls-ready-eat-chicken-products-due-possible-listeria.