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Cooked Chicken Breasts Join Tainted-Food Recalls

Oscar Mayer product contaminated by listeriosis; Salmonella and botulism threats prompt cantaloupe, baby food recalls; peanut butter probe continuing

MONDAY, Feb. 19, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- The drumroll for tainted food continued Monday with a nationwide recall of Oscar Mayer chicken breast strips for bacterial contamination.

The recall by Carolina Culinary Foods of West Columbia, S.C., involves 52,650 pounds of fully cooked chicken breasts produced on Jan. 9 and distributed nationwide to retailers.

The six-ounce packages are labeled "OSCAR MAYER/LOUIS RICH CHICKEN BREAST STRIPS WITH RIB MEAT, GRILLED, FULLY COOKED -- READY TO EAT." Each package has the number "P-19676" inside the USDA inspection mark on front and a use-by-date of "19 Apr 2007" on back.

According to a statement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a sample of the meat tested in Georgia was contaminated by Listeria monocytogenes, which can cause listeriosis, a rare but serious infection. There have been no reported cases of illness linked to the recalled chicken, the agency said.

Consumers with questions about the recall should contact Kraft Consumer Response at (800) 871-7117.

The chicken breast recall is the fourth food recall in a week. Fresh cantaloupe and selected jars of organic baby food were recalled late Friday, and a major recall of peanut butter was initiated late Wednesday after 300 people in 39 states were sickened.

In the case of the cantaloupes and peanut butter, the culprit was salmonella. The baby food was contaminated with Clostridium botulinum, which can cause botulism. Both are life-threatening illnesses.

Dole Fresh Fruit Co. recalled roughly 6,104 cartons of imported cantaloupes from Costa Rica that were distributed to wholesalers in the eastern United States and Quebec between Feb. 5 and Feb. 8, the Associated Press reported. There were no reports of illness.

And the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned consumers late Friday not to use certain jars of Earth's Best Organic 2 Apple Peach Barley Wholesome Breakfast baby food because they may be contaminated with Clostridium botulinum,, a life-threatening illness.

The manufacturer, Hain Celestial Group of Melville, N.Y., initiated a recall on Feb. 9 of 4,072 cases of individual jars and 38,298 variety packs, the FDA said in a prepared statement. Production and distribution of the baby food has been suspended while the FDA and the company work to determine the source of the problem.

The food, part of the firm's "2nd Vegetables, Fruits and Blends" line intended for babies 6 months and older, was distributed through retail stores and also sold through the Earth's Best Website, the FDA said

The agency urged consumers to throw away any jars they might have.

In the case of the cantaloupe recall, the FDA is urging consumers to wash the outer surface of cantaloupes and other melons with cool tap water before slicing into them.

Dole said the recalled cantaloupes have a light green skin and orange flesh, and were distributed for sale in bulk cardboard cartons, with nine, 12 or 15 cantaloupes to a carton. The recalled cartons are dark brown with "Dole Cantaloupes" in red lettering. They have a 13-digit number on a white tag pasted to the carton; the 10th digit is a "2."

Consumers with questions should call the store where they bought the cantaloupes or contact Dole at (800) 232-8888.

The affected baby food involves:

  • Earth's Best Organic 2 Apple Peach Barley Wholesome Breakfast (4.5 ounce jars) 23923-20223 PFGJ14NP EXP 14 SEP 08 A
  • Earth's Best Organic 2 Wholesome Breakfast Variety Pack (12 pack) 23923-20295 13 SEP 08
  • Earth's Best Organic 2 Apple Peach Barley (4.5 ounce jars within 12 pack) 23923-20223 PF6J14 NP EXP 14 SEP 08 A.

Consumers who have questions should contact Hain Celestial Group at 1-800-434-4246.

Last Wednesday, ConAgra Foods Inc. recalled its Peter Pan peanut butter and batches of Wal-Mart's Great Value peanut butter after they were linked to the salmonella outbreak that struck across the country.

Scientists were still trying to determine how Salmonella tennessee got into batches of the spread made at a Sylvester, Ga., plant.

The company still has not determined how many jars are affected by a recall. The plant, shut down since Wednesday, is the sole maker of the Peter Pan brand and one of the producers of the Wal-Mart Great Value house brand, and the recall covers all peanut butter made at the plant since May 2006.

Consumers should toss out jars with a product code on the lid beginning with "2111."

ConAgra announced that it has added extra capacity to its toll-free Consumer Affairs hotline (866-344-6970), which is set up to respond to consumer questions and concerns. Callers can also apply for refunds for products covered by the recall.

Meanwhile, in a related move, the USDA announced Monday that it was implementing the first changes to its meat and poultry plant inspections program in a decade, the Associated Press reported.

Plants with a history of problems will receive greater scrutiny, and conversely, plants that have better records of meat and poultry handling will see fewer inspections for contamination from E. coli, salmonella and other germs.

The new "risk-based" system will evaluate the type of product produced and the plant's record of food and safety violations, Agriculture Department officials told the AP.

According to the CDC, there are an estimated 76 million cases of food-borne illness each year in the United States, the vast majority of which are mild and cause symptoms that last a day or two. Some cases are more serious, leading to 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths annually. The most severe cases tend to occur in the very old, the very young, and those with weakened immune systems.

More information

For more information on safe food handling, visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

SOURCES: Feb. 18, 2007, USDA press release; Feb. 16, 2007, FDA press release; Feb. 15, 2007, FDA press release; ConAgra press release; Associated Press
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