This may not be mass Listeria, but Tyson Foods, Inc. is now recalling approximately 8,492,832 pounds of its chicken products due to possible contamination with Listeria monocytogenes.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), the recall encompasses frozen, fully cooked, ready-to-eat (RTE) chicken products that were produced between December 26, 2020 and April 13, 2021. RTE means that normally you can eat them without doing anything more like cooking them. Of course, typically you will defrost such chicken products before you eat them, unless you are in the habit of sucking on frozen chicken-sicles. In their announcement on Saturday, the USDA FSIS provided a list of the specific products being recalled and pictures of their labels. You can also look for the establishment number “EST. P-7089” on the product bag or inside the USDA mark of inspection.
Of course, the nearly 8.5 million pounds of chicken products didn’t go to one person. That would have been a heck of a lot of chicken to put on your pizza or your salad. Instead this chicken went across the nation to various “retailers and institutions, including hospitals, nursing facilities, restaurants, schools and Department of Defense locations,” in the words of the USDA FSIS announcement. The fact that the chicken went to hospitals, nursing facilities, and schools is notable because Listeria is more likely to cause more serious illness, dubbed invasive listeriosis, in those who are older, have weakened immune systems, or are pregnant. I have already covered for Forbes how poopy this fever-and-diarrhea-causing bacteria can make you feel. But while feeling like poop is not a positive thing (with apologies to poop), the greater concern is the risk of invasive listeriosis, when the bacteria goes from your intestines into your bloodstream and invades your central nervous system. This can result in very serious problems with a 20% to 30% risk of death.
The reason for the recall is a Listeria outbreak, which I wrote about yesterday for Forbes. From April 6, 2021 to June 5, 2021, there were three reported cases of Listeria infections, resulting in three hospitalizations and one death. The USDA FSIS did find Listeria monocytogenes in two precooked chicken samples, including one sample collected at Tyson Foods Inc. The genetic make-up of the Listeria was very similar to that of the bacteria found in the people who had become ill.
Tyson Foods, Inc. also released a statement yesterday indicating that this “voluntary recall is being initiated out of an abundance of caution,” as opposed to a tiny bit of caution. According to the statement, “the affected products were produced at one plant located in Dexter, Missouri, between December 26 of 2020 and April 13 of 2021.” Additionally, the statement said that “there is no conclusive evidence that the products were contaminated at the time of shipment.”
So don’t be chicken if you find any of the products on the USDA FSIS recall list. Instead return the products for a refund. The USDA offered three ways of contacting them too. One is calling the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854). A second possible avenue is their “Ask USDA” live chat, which is available between the hours of 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Eastern Time) Monday through Friday. A third option is emailing them at [email protected]. Keep in mind that any questions should be relevant to the recall or the USDA. This wouldn’t be the place to ask for chicken recipes or why the chicken crossed the road.