Contaminated meats

by Amy Olson

Pregnant women, victims of the HIV virus and people who like hot dogs should all think twice before popping that wiener in the microwave.
Twelve people across the nation have died and 79 people have reported falling ill after eating lunch meat or hot dogs tainted with a strain of bacteria called listeria. The outbreak includes victims from Minnesota and Iowa.
In addition, the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention is reporting that at least three women have had miscarriages linked to the contaminated meat.
The tainted meat products came from two companies, including a subsidiary of Sara Lee Corp., based in Chicago. Sara Lee has recalled hot dogs and deli meats produced at its Bil Mar plant in Zeeland, Mich., after the CDC found unopened packages were contaminated with the bacteria.
The Sara Lee products include Ball Park Franks. Poultry products with the lot number “EST P-261,” and other meats with the lot number “6911” should be returned.
Lot numbers are the serial numbers usually located on the back of the package identifying when and where the product was produced.
People with suspected meats should return them to the supermarket where they were purchased.
The Food Safety and Inspection Service of the United States Dairy Association issued a statement indicating that a second company, Thorn Apple Valley, Inc., is recalling products made at its Forrest City, Ark., plant because its hot dogs and lunch meats might be contaminated.
The office is encouraging customers who bought the company’s products, with lot numbers “EST 13529” or “P-13529,” not to eat the products, said the inspection service’s assistant administrator Margaret Glavin. Under the recall, Thorn Apple Valley will accept returns of its products, which include Colonial, Corn King, Fairgrounds and Iowa Gold brand hot dogs, as well as HyVee, Safeway and Iowa Gold lunch meats.
People with healthy immune systems can usually fight off the bacteria, which produces flu-like symptoms; but people who are HIV-positive or are undergoing chemotherapy are more susceptible to serious illness from the bacteria, said Craig Hedberg, supervisor of the foodborne, vectorborne and zoonotic diseases unit at the Minnesota Department of Health.
He added that children and elderly persons are also more susceptible to illness. While the illness does not pose problems for healthy individuals, it should not be taken lightly.
“These can be very serious diseases,” Hedberg said.
Hedberg said the two confirmed cases of listeria in Minnesota were linked to the Sara Lee products.
According to the CDC, about 1,800 cases of food poisoning caused by listeria are reported each year in the United States.
The nation’s largest outbreak occurred in California in 1985, when 48 people died and 66 miscarriages were linked to cheese contaminated with the bacteria.