The possibility that listeria has contaminated meat and poultry products has prompted a Texas-based distributor to issue a voluntary recall.
According to the USDA, Ajinomoto Windsor Inc. has issued a recall for more than 47 million pounds of not-ready-to-eat meat and poultry products that may be contaminated with listeria.
The heat-treated meat and poultry items, which are not fully cooked and not shelf stable, were produced on various dates from May 1, 2014, to May 1, 2016.
"The idea is that it's possible that it could be linked to this plant as far back as that because of the match," said CRF Frozen Foods spokesman Gene Grabowski. "As a result, the company, working with the FDA, decided to do the recall that far back."
The affected products include frozen chicken fried rice, chicken poblano firecrackers and other chicken, vegetable and meat products produced by Ajinomoto Windsor.
So far, eight people have reported illness by listeria genetically similar to that found in CRF vegetables. Two have died, though listeria was not the primary cause of death, the Associated Press reported.
Listeriosis can cause fever, muscle aches, headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance and convulsions, sometimes preceded by diarrhea or other gastrointestinal symptoms. The invasive infection spreads beyond the gastrointestinal tract.
According to the USDA, the problem was discovered when Ajinomoto Windsor was notified by CRF that its frozen vegetables used in Ajinomoto Windsor, Inc. products were involved in a recall. CRF Frozen Foods of Pasco, Washington, voluntarily recalled frozen fruit and vegetable items because of an outbreak of listeriosis.
The products in the recall were distributed in the United States, Canada and Mexico.
According to the AP, more than 400 products from CRF Frozen Foods are sold under more than 40 different brand names at major retailers including Costco, Target and Trader Joe's.
"Unquestionably, this is a lot of product," said Matthew Wise, who leads the outbreak response team at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "It reflects the severity of listeria as an illness, the long duration of illnesses and the outbreak and the long shelf life of the products."
Company officials said in the statement that Ajinomoto Windsor is working with its customers to remove the products from store shelves.
If you have purchased Ajinomoto brand items that carry a “use-by” date of Nov. 5, 2017, or earlier, you are advised to discard them or return them to the store where you purchased them. If the product includes a Julian code date, remove or return or destroy that product as well, company officials said.
Anyone with questions can call the company’s consumer affairs hotline at 855-742-5011 from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pacific time, Monday through Sunday.
The Windsor Foods website has a complete list of products affected by the recall.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.