Mar 6, 2007

Product recalls increase: Chicken is added

by Jenni Thurman
Kraft Foods’ recall of Oscar Mayer chicken products has removed more then 2.8 million pounds of chicken from supermarket shelves, making it one of the largest meat and poultry recalls since 2004.
Originally announced Feb. 18, the recall initially removed more than 52,000 pounds of Oscar Mayer/Louis Rich Chicken Breast Strips-Grilled from wholesalers when bacteria was detected in a single package.

The bacteria, called Listeria monocytogenes, was discovered during a routine health examination at a Dawsonville, Ga. supermarket.

The contaminated chicken came from Carolina Culinary Foods in West Columbia, S.C., a Kraft manufacturer.

According to a statement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Georgia Department of Agriculture scientists tested a sample of the meat and found that it was positive for the bacteria.
As a precaution, the recall was expanded to all chicken products that were manufactured at the same plant, said Kraft’s Elizabeth Warner in a statement.

“We run a safe plant – and we’ll do whatever it takes to keep it safe,” said Carolina Culinary Foods.
Originally, the recall only applied to ready-to-eat chicken strips with a “use by” date of April 19.
The recall now includes all 6-ounce and 12-ounce packages of Oscar Mayer/ Louis Rich Chicken Breast Strips and Cuts with a “use by” date of May 28, 2007, or earlier.

The packaging displays the number “P-19676” inside the U.S. Department of Agriculture mark of inspection.

“We have a goal of always being able to assure consumers of the safety of our products, and we regret not having met that high standard in this case,” said a statement from Carolina Culinary Foods.

Listeria can cause a disease called listeriosis, which can be fatal to infants, senior citizens and individuals with weak immune systems.

At press time, there had been no reports of illness due to the contaminated chicken.

As a result of the chicken debacle, the USDA announced on a new inspection plan on Feb. 22 that will target facilities responsible for manufacturing foods prone to bacterial and viral infections.

Richard Raymond, the USDA’s undersecretary for food safety, told USA Today that plants producing foods such as ground chicken and beef, which can have high rates of organisms like E. coli O157:H7 and salmonella, will be more intensively inspected.

The new system will begin inspecting 254 plants in April and will expand to 1,300 locations by the end of the year.By 2008, all of the 5,300 plants in the U.S. will be monitored under the system.
The Consumer Federation of America released a statement slamming the USDA’s new system, claiming it was not based in scientific fact.

“In their zeal to save a few dollars in future years, the Bush administration is subjecting Americans to an increased risk of illness and death from food poisoning,” said the statement.

Raymond also told USA Today that the new system would not expand to other plants at the end of the year if it were found to be ineffective.

The chicken recall was the fourth U.S. food scare in a week, with peanut butter, cantaloupe and organic baby food blazing the trail for Kraft Foods.

Peanut butter manufactured at a ConAgra plant in Sylvester, Ga., was found to be contaminated with salmonella.

More than 300 people in 39 states became ill after ingesting the infected peanut better.
Castle Produce of Los Angeles recalled more than 2,500 cartons of cantaloupe when several of the melons tested positive for salmonella.

The cantaloupes had been shipped from Costa Rica and were slated to be sold to retailers on the West Coast.

Jars of Earth’s Best organic baby food, manufactured by Hain Celestial Group, were recalled after the Food and Drug Administration discovered traces of Clostridium botulinum, a bacteria that can cause botulism.

There are currently no reports of illness in relation to the organic baby food or cantaloupes.

Contact Jenni Thurman at jthurman@liberty.edu.
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