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Update: Multistate Outbreak of Listeriosis -- United States, 1998-1999

From early August 1998 through January 6, 1999, at least 50 illnesses caused by a rare strain of the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes, serotype 4b, have been reported to CDC by 11 states. Six adults have died and two pregnant women have had spontaneous abortions. Reported illness onset dates were during August 2-December 13, 1998. CDC and state and local health departments have identified the vehicle for transmission as hot dogs and possibly deli meats produced under many brand names by one manufacturer. This report updates the investigation of this outbreak (1).

On December 22, the manufacturer, Bil Mar Foods, voluntarily recalled specific production lots of hot dogs and deli meats that might be contaminated. CDC later isolated the outbreak strain of L. monocytogenes from an opened and a previously unopened package of hot dogs manufactured at the company's plant in Zeeland, Michigan. In addition, a different strain of L. monocytogenes was isolated from unopened packages of deli meats produced at the same plant.

Recalled products bear the establishment numbers EST P261 or EST 6911. The establishment number appears on the outer edge of all packages. The affected products included hot dogs and deli meats with the brand names Ball Park, Bil Mar, Bryan Bunsize, Bryan 3-lb Club Pack, Grillmaster, Hygrade, Mr. Turkey, Sara Lee Deli Meat, and Sara Lee Home Roast brands. Institutions may have received recalled product under other brand names. Packages for the above brand names that carry other establishment numbers are not affected by the recall. Other Sara Lee products that are not meat also are not affected.

Reported by: Ohio Dept of Health. New York State Dept of Health; Food Safety Laboratory, Cornell Univ, New York City Dept of Health. Tennessee Dept of Health. Massachusetts Dept of Public Health. West Virginia Dept of Health and Human Resources. Michigan Dept of Community Health. Connecticut Dept of Public Health. Health Div, Oregon Dept of Human Resources. Vermont Dept of Health. Div of Public Health, Georgia Dept of Human Resources. Minnesota Dept of Community Health. Foodborne and Diarrheal Diseases Br, Div of Bacterial and Mycotic Diseases, National Center for Infectious Diseases; and EIS officers, CDC.

Editorial Note

Editorial Note: Healthy persons rarely develop severe illness from Listeria. The illness primarily occurs in pregnant women, newborns, and persons with impaired immunity caused by serious illness, such as acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or cancer. Listeria infections during pregnancy may cause an influenza-like illness with fever and chills, and may lead to loss of the fetus. In other persons, early symptoms can include fever, severe headache, and stiff neck. Illness can begin 2-8 weeks after eating the contaminated food.

Consumers who have the affected product should not eat it, but rather should discard it or return it to the point of purchase. The risk for developing Listeria infection after eating a contaminated product is low. Persons who have eaten a contaminated product and do not have any symptoms do not need any special medical evaluation or treatment, even if they are in high-risk groups. However, persons in high-risk groups who have eaten the contaminated product, and within 2 months become ill with fever or influenza-like illness, should inform their physicians about this exposure. Because of this long incubation period, cases may continue to occur and be reported for several weeks after an effective recall.

Consumers who have questions about the recall or the products involved should contact Bil Mar Foods, telephone (800) 247-8339. Persons who have questions about Listeria should call their physicians or their local or state health departments or visit CDC's World-Wide Web site, General questions about meat handling should be directed to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Meat and Poultry Hotline, telephone (800) 535-4555, Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. eastern time.


  1. CDC. Multistate outbreak of listeriosis -- United States, 1998. MMWR 1998;47:1085-6.

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