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Outbreak of Listeria Infections Linked to Deli Ham

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Posted October 4, 2018 at 10:30 AM ET

CDC and public health and regulatory officials in several states are investigating a multistate outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes infections linked to ready-to-eat deli ham produced by Johnston County Hams, Inc. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS) is monitoring this outbreak.

Advice to Consumers, Restaurants, and Retailers

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At A Glance

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  • On October 3, 2018, Johnston County Hams, Inc. in Smithfield, North Carolina recalled ham products because they might be contaminated with Listeria bacteria.
  • As a result of this recall, several other companies recalled ham products. For complete lists of recalled products, check the USDA-FSIS website and the FDA website.
  • Do not eat, sell, or serve recalled products from Johnston County Hams, Inc.
    • Johnston County Hams, Inc. recalled the following ready-to-eat ham products:
      • Johnston County Hams, Inc. Country Style Fully Cooked Boneless Deli Ham
      • Ole Fashioned Sugar Cured The Old Dominion Brand Hams Premium Fully Cooked Country Ham with sell-by dates from 4/10/2018 to 9/27/2019
      • Padow’s Hams & Deli, Inc. Fully Cooked Country ham Boneless Glazed with Brown Sugar
      • Premium Fully Cooked Country Ham Less Salt Distributed by Valley Country Hams, LLC. with sell-by dates from 4/10/2018 to 9/27/2019
      • Goodnight Brothers Country Ham Boneless Fully Cooked
    • Recalled ham products were produced from April 3, 2017, through October 2, 2018.
    • Recalled products are labeled with establishment number “EST. M2646” inside the USDA mark of inspection.
  • When available, the retail distribution list will be posted on the USDA-FSIS website.
  • Return any recalled deli ham to the store for a refund or throw it away. Even if some ham was eaten and no one got sick, do not eat it. If you do not know if the ham you purchased was recalled, ask the place where you purchased it or throw it away.
  • Retailers should clean and sanitize deli slicers and other areas where recalled deli ham was prepared, stored, or served. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for sanitizer strength and application to ensure it is effective.
  • If you develop symptoms of a Listeria infection after eating recalled deli ham products, contact a healthcare provider and tell them you ate recalled ham. This is especially important if you are pregnant, age 65 or older, or have a weakened immune system.

Latest Outbreak Information

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  • Four people infected with the outbreak strain of Listeria monocytogenes have been reported from North Carolina and Virginia.
    • Listeria specimens from ill people were collected from July 8, 2017, to August 11, 2018.
    • Four people have been hospitalized. One death has been reported from Virginia.
  • Epidemiologic, laboratory, and traceback evidence indicates that deli ham products from Johnston County Hams, Inc. are a likely source of the outbreak.
  • On October 3, 2018, Johnston County Hams, Inc. recalled ready-to-eat deli hams because they might be contaminated with Listeria.
    • As a result of this recall, several other companies recalled ham products. For complete lists of recalled products, check the USDA-FSIS website and the FDA website.
  • This investigation is ongoing, and CDC will provide updates when more information is available.

General Listeria Information

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  • If you have eaten recalled deli ham products and do not have any symptoms of a Listeria infection, most experts believe that tests or treatment are not needed, even for people who have a higher chance of Listeria infection.
  • In general, people who are at higher risk for Listeria infection should avoid eating lunch meats, cold cuts, or other deli meats, unless they are heated to an internal temperature of 165°F or until steaming hot just before serving.
  • Learn more about how you can take steps to prevent Listeria infection.

Symptoms of Listeria Infection

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  • Listeriosis can cause a variety of symptoms, depending on the person and the part of the body affected.
    • Pregnant women: Pregnant women typically experience only fever and other flu-like symptoms, such as fatigue and muscle aches. However, infections during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, or life-threatening infection of the newborn.
    • People other than pregnant women: Symptoms can include headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions in addition to fever and muscle aches.
  • People with invasive listeriosis usually report symptoms starting 1 to 4 weeks after eating food contaminated with Listeria; some people have reported symptoms starting as late as 70 days after exposure or as early as the same day of exposure. Listeriosis is treated with antibiotics.
  • Pregnant women and their newborns, adults age 65 and older, and people with weakened immune systems are more likely to get sick with listeriosis.

Investigation Details

October 4, 2018

CDC and public health and regulatory officials in several states are investigating a multistate outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes infections. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS) is monitoring this outbreak.

Public health investigators are using the PulseNet system to identify illnesses that may be part of this outbreak. PulseNet is the national subtyping network of public health and food regulatory agency laboratories coordinated by CDC. DNA fingerprinting is performed on Listeria bacteria isolated from ill people by using a technique called whole genome sequencing (WGS). CDC PulseNet manages a national database of these DNA fingerprints to identify possible outbreaks. WGS performed on bacteria isolated from ill people showed that they were closely relatedly genetically. This means that people in this outbreak are more likely to share a common source of infection.

As of October 3, 2018, four people infected with the outbreak strain of Listeria monocytogenes have been reported from two states. A list of the states and the number of cases in each can be found on the Map of Reported Cases page.

Listeria specimens from ill people were collected from July 8, 2017, to August 11, 2018. Ill people range in age from 70 to 81 years, with a median age of 76 years. Fifty percent of ill people are female. All four ill people (100%) were hospitalized. One death has been reported from Virginia.

Illnesses that occurred after September 3, 2018, might not yet be reported due to the time it takes between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported. This takes an average of 2 to 10 weeks. Please see the Timeline for Reporting Cases of Listeria Infection for more details.

Investigation of the Outbreak

Epidemiologic, laboratory, and traceback evidence indicates that deli ham from Johnston County Hams, Inc. in Smithfield, North Carolina is a likely source of the outbreak.

In interviews, ill people answered questions about the foods they ate and other exposures in the four weeks before they became ill. Three people were interviewed and all three (100%) reported eating deli ham or other deli meat from a grocery store or restaurant.

USDA-FSIS and state partners traced the source of the deli ham that ill people ate to Johnston County Hams, Inc. in Smithfield, North Carolina. The traceback investigation also showed Johnston County Hams products were served at an assisted living facility where the one ill person who could not be interviewed was a resident.

During routine inspections, federal regulatory officials collected deli ham from the Johnston County Hams, Inc. facility in 2016 and in early 2018. Whole genome sequencing results showed that Listeria identified in the deli ham in both years was closely related genetically to Listeria from ill people. These results provide more evidence that ill people became sick from eating contaminated deli ham.

On October 3, 2018, Johnston County Hams, Inc. recalled ready-to-eat deli ham products because they might be contaminated with Listeria bacteria. Recalled ham products were produced from April 3, 2017 through October 2, 2018. Return them to the store for a refund or throw them away. Restaurants and retailers should not serve or sell recalled Johnston County Hams products.

This investigation is ongoing, and CDC will provide updates when more information is available.

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