Microbiologic implication of meat as a source of clinical listeriosis has not previously been documented. In December 1988, a woman with cancer was hospitalized in Oklahoma with sepsis caused by Listeria monocytogenes (LM). LM was isolated from an open package of Plantation Brand turkey franks from the patient’s refrigerator.
The patient had eaten one turkey frank daily heated in a microwave oven. LM was also isolated from two unopened packages of Plantation Brand turkey franks from a local store. Cultures of other foods in the patient’s refrigerator were positive for LM; however, unopened samples of those foods were negative for LM. LM isolates from the patient and from the opened and unopened packages of franks were confirmed at CDC as serotype 1/2a with the same electrophoretic enzyme type.
On April 14, 1989, the company voluntarily recalled the franks, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture began an investigation of the processing plant. Multiple products from the patient’s refrigerator grew LM of the same serotype and enzyme type, suggesting cross-contamination; therefore, isolation of LM from opened packages is not sufficient to identify the source of infection.

Isolation from unopened products implicates the source of infection with greater certainty. An epidemiologic study of dietary risk factors for sporadic cases of listeriosis previously implicated consumption of uncooked hot dogs and undercooked chicken (1); in that study, no microbiologic specimens were obtained. LM causes 1700 cases of meningitis and sepsis in the United States each year, with a case-fatality rate of 25%.
Listeriosis usually occurs in pregnant women or immunosuppressed persons. Such persons who have eaten this brand of turkey franks and are not ill do not need treatment. Persons who have eaten this food and develop fever, severe headache, or muscle aches should consult their physicians. Reported by: R Barnes, P Archer, MPH, J Strack, GR Istre, MD, State Epidemiologist, Oklahoma State Dept of Health. Meningitis and Special Pathogens Br, Div of Bacterial Diseases, Center for Infectious Diseases, CDC.