Mar 9, 2005
Listeria detected in barbecue products
A long-standing spotless safety record held by a local pork producer is now marred.
C.H. Clark & Son Inc., a family business in Rocky Point since 1926, learned Monday that one of its batches of cooked pork barbecue was contaminated. The culprit? A bacteria named Listeria monocytogenes ?– listeria for short.
Charles Clark III, owner of the pork processing plant founded by his grandfather, said the plant received a preliminary positive test for listeria from the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services lab last week and stopped distribution of the batch in question at that time.
ìWe immediately held all product from that date until we got the bombshell yesterday,– he said Tuesday, referring to the confirmation he received Monday.
On Monday, Mr. Clark officially voluntarily recalled a suspected 295 pounds of the cooked, ready-to-eat product.
Listeria can cause listeriosis, an uncommon but potentially fatal infection. There’s no need to panic, though, health officials said.
As long as restaurants reheated the barbecue as required by health department standards — to 160 degrees — it should have killed any listeria in the meat. There have been no reports of anyone getting sick from consuming the product.
Mr. Clark said he has notified eight restaurants in New Hanover and Pender counties to which he sells his product, telling them to put aside the batch of barbecue.
He declined to name the restaurants. Mr. Clark and NCDA Meat and Poultry Inspection Service employees are now sorting through paperwork back to the date the batch in question was made — Feb. 24 — to identify anyone else who may have purchased the meat.
ìWe’re still digging,– he said. ìWe want to be able to account for every pound. That’s the type of business we try to run — a good, honest business.–
Dr. Steven Wells, director of the Meat and Poultry Inspection Service, said C.H. Clark & Son seems to have done everything right.
ìThe plant has had an exemplary record, quite frankly,– he said. ìThey do a very good job at cleaning and everything else. This type of bacteria Ö it can be in an environment anywhere. You can track it in on your shoes.–
His inspectors have suspended ready-to-eat product operations at the small plant at 4800 N.C. 133 in Rocky Point until tests show the plant is free of listeria. Production of raw meat at the plant — including its specialty sausage — continues.
Dr. Wells said this is the first time in about three years that listeria has been identified in a state-inspected plant in North Carolina. When these bacteria do pop up, he said processing plants often have a difficult job of eradicating them.
ìThis bacteria can be so tenacious, so resistant to sanitizers, they will literally take their equipment and put it in a smokehouse and bake it to kill the bacteria,– he said. ìIt’s difficult to control, but it can be done.–
Cheryl Welch: 343-2315