Zeigler meat could contain fatal bacteria

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 4, 2001

Staff Report

A Selma meat company has found a potentially fatal bacteria in its product. Now the meat is coming off grocery store shelves across the South.

R. L. Zeigler, Co., headquartered in Selma, has immediately stopped production and shipments of all lunch meat items.

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According to a statement released by the company, Zeigler "became aware of a possible problem" with two of its lunch meat items that were produced on Aug. 29 and Sept. 25 of this year."

The company said it is also holding all lunch meat items currently in their inventory.

Several stores, including those in the Dallas County area, have been asked by Zeigler to recall their lunch meat items.

After notifying the USDA of the apparent problem, Zeigler sent the meat to an independent laboratory for testing. The tests indicated that the "two production dates of products" contained the bacteria listeria monocytogenes, which can cause listeriosis, a potentially fatal disease.

According the United States Food Safety and Inspection Service Web site, symptoms of listeriosis include high fever, severe headache, neck stiffness and nausea.

The disease can cause fatal infections in those with weak immune systems, infants, the frail or the elderly, persons with chronic disease, those with HIV infections and those taking chemotherapy treatment. It has also been known to cause miscarriages and stillbirths. Healthy people, however, are rarely known to get listeriosis.

"Although these were the only production dates that tested positive, we chose to conduct a voluntary recall involving all of the lunch meats produced at our Selma, Alabama, plant since Aug. 29, 2001," the statement said.

The statement also noted that "no illnesses or injuries have been associated with the consumption of these products."

State Agricultural Commissioner Charles Bishop said he feared small stores may not know about the recall and may still be selling the meat.

"…I’m asking for your help in notifying those in perhaps some smaller establishments who may not have received word from company headquarters," Bishop said.

Zeigler currently distributes its products to stores in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

The meat products are under the labels of Zeigler, Elm Hill, Frosty Morn and Lays with sell by dates in October, November and December.

Zeigler officials in Selma declined to comment on several details, including what caused the bacteria to enter the lunch meat and what the public should do with recently purchased meat.

The company said it is investigating the cause of the bacteria.