Food scare number 4 this week - chicken breast meat

In yet another food scare in the United States a nationwide recall of 52,650 pounds of Oscar Mayer ready to eat chicken breast strips is suspected to be contaminated.

The Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service says some packages may be contaminated with listeria monocytogenes which health officials say can cause high fever, severe headache, and nausea.

The bacteria is usually associated with foods such as raw milk, pasteurized fluid milk, cheeses, particularly soft-ripened varieties, ice cream, raw vegetables, fermented raw-meat sausages, raw and cooked poultry, raw meats of all types, and raw and smoked fish.

It has the ability to grow at temperatures as low as 0°C which allows it to multiply in refrigerated foods.

The recall by Carolina Culinary Foods of West Columbia, affects six-ounce packages that bear the number "p-19676" inside the front of the package and on the back of each package is a "use by" date of "19 APR 2007."

The packages are labeled "OSCAR MAYER/LOUIS RICH CHICKEN BREAST STRIPS WITH RIB MEAT, GRILLED, FULLY COOKED - READY TO EAT."

There have been no reports of illnesses associated with consumption of the product.

A statement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture says a sample of the meat tested in Georgia was contaminated by Listeria monocytogenes.

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

This latest food scare is the fourth food recall in a week; fresh cantaloupe and selected jars of organic baby food were recalled last Friday, and a major recall of peanut butter was announced on Wednesday after 300 people in 39 states became sick.

The cantaloupes and peanut butter were contaminated with salmonella and the baby food with Clostridium botulinum, which can cause botulism; both can be life-threatening illnesses.

The FDA has warned consumers to throw away any jars of the baby food and to wash the outer surface of cantaloupes and other melons with cool tap water before slicing into them.

Consumers with questions should phone (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.

Scientists meanwhile are still trying to track down the source of the Salmonella tennessee bacteria found in batches of Peter Pan peanut butter and Wal-Mart's Great Value peanut butter after they were linked to a salmonella outbreak across the country.

Just this week the USDA announced that it is implementing the first changes to its meat and poultry plant inspections program in years and henceforth a new "risk-based" system will evaluate the type of product produced and the plant's record of food and safety violations.

An estimated 76 million cases of food-borne illness are reported each year in the United States, and while the vast majority are mild and cause passing symptoms, some cases are more serious, leading to 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths annually.

The most severe cases occur as a rule in the very old, the very young, and those with weakened immune systems.

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