Listeria Fears Prompt Meijer Frozen Dinner Recall

Meijer Inc. of Grand Rapids, Michigan, has pulled 2,184 pounds of frozen entrees from its shelves over concerns that the frozen dinners could be contaminated with <"">Listeria.  However, Meijer company representatives say only 21 packages of the potentially Listeria contaminated frozen dinners have been sold in four states, including one each at stores in Holland and Big Rapids, Michigan.  Meijer spokesman Frank Guglielmi said the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) alerted the company on Friday that microbiological sample testing showed the food could be tainted with Listeria, a bacteria that can cause illness or death.

Consumption of food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes can cause listeriosis, a serious although relatively rare infection.  Listeriosis outbreaks have been associated with consuming unpasteurized or raw milk, contaminated soft cheeses, vegetables, and ready-to-eat meats.  The Listeria bacterium is found in soil and water.  Animals can carry the bacterium without appearing ill, contaminating foods of animal origin such as meats and dairy products.  The bacterium has been found in processed foods that become contaminated after processing, such as soft cheeses and deli counter cold cuts.  The disease typically affects pregnant women—often resulting in stillborn deaths or miscarriage—newborns and those with weakened immune systems.  Symptoms include fever, muscle aches, and gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea or diarrhea.  If infection spreads to the nervous system, headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, or convulsions can occur.

USDA spokeswoman Peggy Riek said no illnesses were reported and Meijer decided to voluntarily recall the product, which was distributed to Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio.  “This is a relatively new product for us,” said Guglielmi of the 12-ounce packages of Discover Cuisine Red Curry Chicken and Jasmine Rice.  The products have a Canadian establishment number of 302 on the front of the package and a “use by” date of December 18, 2008.  The product is advertised as having a “StacPac” cooking system that separates the rice and the chicken, vegetables and sauce, which are then poured on to the rice after it is cooked.  Anyone who bought the product can return it to Meijer for a refund or exchange.  The USDA said the Canadian company produced the meals October 18 before sending the packages to the Meijer Distribution Center in Walker, Michigan.  From there, the packages were distributed to stores.

In 1998, 15 deaths and six miscarriages were linked to listeria traced to meat shipped from the Bil Mar factory near Zeeland and in recent months, listeria has been the focus of a number of outbreaks, including at least three cases in North Carolina which were linked to soft cheeses from a variety of sources and an outbreak at the Whittier Farms dairy in Massachusetts where four people died and more were sickened from consuming products produced at the dairy.  In January, in Olympia, Washington, the Ca Rem #1 Ice Cream, SeaTac voluntarily recalled its coconut-flavored popsicles when routine sampling and analysis by the Washington State Department of Agriculture revealed the presence of Listeria.  In February, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) alerted the public to avoid consuming smoked pork and beef bratwurst produced by J&B Meats, of Barnesville, Minnesota when a routine product sampling revealed contamination with the Listeria monocytogenes bacteria.

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