In early February, Harold Food Co. of North Carolina recalled 1,200 pounds of chicken salad due to fears of Listeria contamination. The recall heavily affected South Carolina stores, with potentially contaminated products pulled from shelves in Allendale, Beaufort, Bishopville, Brunson, Charleston, Cheraw, Chesterfield, Columbia and Conway.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned that the contamination, which came from hard-boiled eggs, could still make its way to consumers. It has issued warnings in more than 34 states, including South Carolina.
The batches of eggs may have been exposed to bacteria because of repairs that took place in the packaging area of a Michael Foods factory in Nebraska, according to that company’s statement. The initial recalls happened in late January, when officials thought the impact of the exposure was much smaller. The recalls quickly expanded as officials traced the path of eggs throughout the country.
Officials discovered that the eggs had been distributed and then sold under multiple brand names, such as: Columbia Valley Farms, GFS, Glenview Farms, Papetti’s, Silverbrook and Wholesome Farms. The various brands of eggs were then sold and used to prepare food products like chicken salad, rather than going directly to consumers. Additionally, the companies that purchased the eggs then sold the potentially affected food products under several brand names.
The eggs were exposed to a type of bacteria called Listeria, which can result in an illness called listeriosis. Though listeriosis outbreaks are still more uncommon than other food sicknesses, it is also one of the most serious. Listeriosis is fatal in about 20 percent of cases.
According to doctors, the illness is most serious in the elderly, pregnant women, people taking medications that suppress the immune system (such as some medicines prescribed for arthritis and asthma), and people with diseases that affect the immune system itself (such as diabetes and HIV). Symptoms of listeriosis include fever and muscle aches, and may include headaches, confusion, neck stiffness, loss of balance and even convulsions. Symptoms can take anywhere from three days to two months to appear.
Officials are worried that even with contaminated products pulled from stores, many may still be in refrigerators across the country. Some of the products won’t reach their final expiration date until mid-March. The FDA is urging consumers to take precautions like checking labels, expiration dates and lot or batch numbers for any food products containing hard-boiled eggs.
Consumers should also stay informed about current food recalls by accessing the FDA’s website.