veronhog.pngA recall is just a recall unless its an outbreak.  We thought we were dealing with “just a recall” last year when Veron Foods, a Louisianna company, recalled 500,000 pounds of head cheese products due to potential contamination by Listeria monocytogenes.  7 months later, the CDC has announced that the Veron recall was more than just a recall; it was an outbreak that sickened at least 8 people between February and June 2010, causing 7 hospitalizations and 2 deaths. 

Here are the investigation details:

OPH epidemiologists obtained food histories from four patients; the remaining patients could not be reached for interview because of their illness or death. Two patients initially reported eating hog head cheese purchased from the same grocery store. Upon re-interview, a third patient also reported eating hog head cheese purchased from a grocery store in another city. A fourth patient could not be reached for re-interview but had initially reported eating “other deli meats,” a category that would include hog head cheese. The traceback investigation determined that only one brand of hog head cheese was sold at both stores, suggesting that this brand was the outbreak source.

OPH sanitarians conducted an environmental investigation at both grocery stores to gather additional information on the suspect product. The sanitarians determined that hog head cheese offered for sale arrived in small, 0.7 pound blocks that were individually vacuum-sealed at the processing establishment. Each store weighed and priced the product and sold it in the refrigerated meat section. The sanitarians collected one unopened package of mild hog head cheese from the first store and two unopened packages of hog head cheese, one mild and one spicy, from the second store. At CDC’s Enteric Diseases Laboratory Branch, L. monocytogenes serotype 1/2a with the outbreak PFGE pattern combination was isolated from the package of spicy hog head cheese.

This finding triggered a voluntary recall of approximately 500,000 pounds of hog head cheese and sausage that was processed on the same equipment. LDAF also collected 16 environmental samples from the processing establishment. Cultures of samples from a refrigeration unit and a door threshold yielded L. monocytogenes. An isolate from the refrigeration unit exhibited the outbreak PFGE pattern combination, and an isolate from the door threshold exhibited a pattern combination that was new to the PulseNet database (GX6A16.1362 and GX6A12.1939). CDC and the USDA Agricultural Research Service further characterized the patient, product, and environmental isolates using multiple-locus variable-number tandem repeat analysis and multilocus genotyping (3). All isolates, with the exception of the isolate from the door threshold, displayed indistinguishable multiple-locus variable-number tandem repeat analysis patterns and identical multilocus genotyping haplotypes (2.12_1/2a), further strengthening the association between the outbreak-associated cases and the hog head cheese producer.