Alexander & Hornung, a subsidiary of Perdue Premium Meat Company, is asking customers to check their kitchens for certain batches of their fully-cooked ham and pepperoni products, which may be contaminated with listeria.
“The affected products are being recalled as a precaution due to possible exposure to Listeria monocytogenes,” the company said in a statement on December 5. The company reported the issue to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) after product sampling tested positive for the bacteria. “While there have been no illnesses or complaints associated with the products and there is no conclusive evidence that the products were contaminated at the time of shipment, the voluntary recall is being initiated out of an abundance of caution.”
FSIS said they were “concerned that some product may be in consumers’ refrigerators or freezers” and urged customers not to eat the products. Instead, if you have any of these products, throw them away or return them to wherever you purchased them.
The recall applies to 17 different products totaling more than 234,000 pounds of ham and pepperoni. Some of the products are branded as Alexander & Hornung, but others have their own private labels, such as the four-pound package of Niman Ranch All Natural Applewood Smoked Uncured Ham with a packed date of November 8, 2021 and the 6.25-pound Open Nature Spiral Sliced Seasoned Uncured Ham Semi-Boneless, cooked, with a sell-by or best-by date before January 7, 2022. You can find the full list of recalled products here and pictures of their labels are here.
Listeria monocytogenes is found in soil, water, moist environments, animals, and decaying vegetation, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and it can survive and even grow when refrigerated. When ingested, the bacteria can cause listeriosis, especially in high-risk people like those who are pregnant, newborns, people who are 65 and older, and those with compromised immune systems, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Symptoms of listeriosis vary widely. Mild cases are rarely diagnosed but can cause fever and diarrhea like other foodborne illnesses, according to the CDC. The illness becomes seriously concerning when it moves beyond the gut (at which point it becomes invasive listeriosis). The illness isn’t always immediate—while some people will have symptoms the same day, many won’t get ill for one to four weeks after consuming the contaminated food, and some have reported illness as long as 70 days after ingesting Listeria monocytogenes.
In pregnant people, invasive listeriosis causes fever, muscle aches, and other flu-like symptoms, but can have serious consequences such as miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, or an infection in the newborn that can be life-threatening. (This is why doctors recommend pregnant people avoid deli meats unless they’ve been heated to 165 degrees immediately before eating, but for what it’s worth, that guidance is based on the fact that deli meats were a main source of listeria outbreaks in the early ’90s, the CDC explains. More recently, many listeria outbreaks have been connected to foods like celery, sprouts, and cantaloupe.)
People who have invasive listeriosis but are not pregnant may experience the usual flu-like symptoms along with headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and even convulsions.
Doctors can run a bacterial culture to diagnose listeriosis, and treatment is antibiotics. “Persons in the higher-risk categories who experience flu-like symptoms within two months after eating contaminated food should seek medical care and tell the health care provider about eating the contaminated food,” the FSIS says.