1 dead as N.C. meat producer recalls ready-to-eat ham products for listeria concerns

 Adriana Marteva | EyeEm | Getty Images

A North Carolina company is recalling more than 89,000 pounds of ready-to-eat ham products for possible listeria contamination that has led to one death and three illnesses.

Johnson County Hams of Smithfield, North Carolina, has recalled the products, produced between April 3, 2017, and Oct. 2, 2018, according to the Department of Agriculture. The ready-to-eat deli-loaf ham items, which weighed between seven and eight pounds, were shipped to distributors in North Carolina, South Carolina, New York, Maryland and Virginia.

An investigation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service and state officials identified a link between one death and three illnesses and listeria monocytogenes found in deli ham produced at the company. The investigation, which is ongoing, found listeria cases occurring between July 8, 2017 and August 11, 2018, the USDA says.

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Listeriosis is a serious infection typically caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes, the contaminant found in the ham.

An estimated 1,600 people get listeriosis each year, and about 260 die, according to the CDC. The infection is most likely to cause illness in pregnant women and their newborns, adults ages 65 or older, and people with weakened immune systems, the agency says.

The ham products were plastic-wrapped and carried one of five different labels including "Johnson County Hams Inc., Country Style Fully Cooked Boneless Deli Ham," "Goodnight Brothers Country Ham Boneless Fully Cooked," and "Padow's Hams & Deli, Inc. Fully Cooked Country Ham Boneless Glazed with Brown Sugar."

Hams labelled "Ole Fashioned Sugar Cured, The Old Dominion Brand Hams Premium Fully Cooked Country Ham" and "Premium Fully Cooked Country Ham, Less Salt, Distributed By: Valley Country Hams LLC" had specific sell-by dates from April 10, 2018 to Sept. 27, 2019.

The USDA, which was notified about an illness on Sept. 27, is concerned that some shoppers may have the ham products in their freezers. Consumers who bought the products should not eat them and, instead, should throw them away or return them to the store where they were purchased.

Consumers with questions about the recall can contact the company's plant manager Rufus Brown at 919-934-8054.

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