That listeria-contaminated chicken from Tip Top Poultry is for certain responsible for multiple recalls in the United States and Canada.
And while the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta has not yet said so, that listeria-contaminated chicken is the likely source of an outbreak strain of Listeria monocytogenes the CDC has been investigating since before Aug. 23.
As of that date, no source had been identified for a Listeria outbreak that had infected 24, hospitalized 22, and caused two deaths across 13 states. More needs to be known about that outbreak, but Marietta, GA-based Tip Top Poultry is looking like the source.
Family owned, the 72-year old Tip Top on Sept. 28 — just nine days ago — recalled all cooked, not deboned foul meat it produced from Jan. 22 to Sept. 24. More recalls have followed by Tip Top’s customers.
Tip Top has production facilities in Marietta and Rockmart, GA, and New Market, VA.
In announcing its recall, Tip Top released a statement to their “valued partners,” saying that they’d “received word” from CDC early in the summer about an outbreak of listeriosis.
As part of that investigation, both USDA and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) were testing products to find the source of the outbreak.
The investigators notified Tip Top on Aug. 17. One of 10 samples of its chicken products pulled from a Manitoba food court returned a positive test result for Listeria.
“We were shocked, saddened, and moved to action when we learned this,” Tip Top said in the statement to its customers.
On Aug. 23 CDC officials released an “investigation notice” to the public about the mysterious Listeria outbreak. It made no mention of the Tip Top test results and did not call out the poultry sector for any special consideration.
Activity at the Tip Top production facility in Rockmart, GA, became intense. Tip Top hired a third party sanitation firm for a review and intensified cleaning for its ready-to-eat cooking facility. The cooking line was shut down for the cleaning, which was complete on Sept.2.
Tip Top’s Rockmart plant was 30 years old on Sept. 25, the day CFIA notified them of another positive test result showing Listeria. CFIA shortly notified Tip Top of three more positive tests for Listeria.
At that point, the company put products on its cooking line in Georgia on hold and opted by the next day to recall production back to January.
Tip Top promises to “scour the line to look for any potential root causes.”
In its only announcement on the listeria outbreak, CDC said it had “not identified a specific food item, grocery store, or restaurant chain as the source of infections. CDC is not recommending that consumers avoid any particular food at this time. Restaurants and retailers are not advised to avoid serving or selling any particular food.”
The Aug. 23 statement from CDC, however, did acknowledge that chicken was a suspected source.
“The Public Health Agency of Canada is also investigating an outbreak of Listeria in several Canadian provinces linked to cooked diced chicken, CDC’s report said.
Whole-genome sequencing showed that the type of Listeria making people sick in Canada is closely related genetically to the Listeria making people sick in the United States, which indicates a common exposure route.
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