Ready-to-eat ham recalled amid deadly listeria outbreak

Several brands of ham produced by Johnston County Hams have been recalled.

Johnston County Hams is recalling more than 89,000 pounds of ready-to-eat ham products due to possible listeria contamination, the US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service said Wednesday.

The recall was announced after health officials linked an outbreak of listeriosis to ham products produced at Johnston County Hams, according to the service.

The agency was notified last month of a patient who had reported consuming products from the company before getting sick.

“The epidemiologic investigation identified a total of four listeriosis confirmed illnesses, including one death, between July 8, 2017 and August 11, 2018,” the recall announcement said.

The agency collected two product samples from the Johnston County Hams North Carolina facility in 2016 and in 2018. Both samples were genetically related to samples of listeria from the outbreak patients.

The illnesses were reported in North Carolina and Virginia. All of the patients were hospitalized, and the death was reported in Virginia, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.

Health officials in those states are working with their federal counterparts to determine whether there are additional cases linked to the outbreak. Anyone who has gotten ill after consuming recalled ham should notify a health care provider.

Symptoms of listeriosis include fever, muscle aches, headache, stiff neck, confusion and loss of balance. Patients may experience diarrhea or other gastrointestinal symptoms, followed by convulsions.

Listeria bacteria are especially concerning in pregnant women because they can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery or a life-threatening infection in a newborn. Others at risk for listeria infection are the elderly and individuals with weakened immune systems.

The recalled products were produced between April 3, 2017, and October 2, 2018, and shipped to distributors in Maryland, North Carolina, New York, South Carolina and Virginia, according to the Food Safety and Inspection Service. They have the establishment number “EST. M2646” inside the USDA inspection mark on the packaging.

They include Johnston County Hams Inc. country style fully cooked boneless deli ham; The Old Dominion brand ole fashioned sugar-cured premium full cooked country ham with sell by dates from April 10, 2018, to September 27, 2019; Padow’s Hams & Deli Inc. fully cooked country ham boneless glazed with brown sugar; premium fully cooked country ham with less salt distributed by Valley Country Hams LLC with sell-by dates from April 10, 2018, to September 27, 2019; and Goodnight Brothers Country Ham boneless fully cooked. All of these recalled products are plastic-wrapped and at weights of 7 to 8 pounds.

Consumers and retailers should not eat, serve or sell any of these products, the CDC and the Food Safety and Inspection Service warned. Products should be returned to where they were purchased or thrown away, and consumers are warned to check their freezers, as well

“Wash and sanitize drawers or shelves in refrigerators and freezers where recalled ham was stored,” the CDC also said.