An Illinois meat packing company is recalling more than half a million pounds of pork products due to food safety concerns. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), the pork products were produced outside of inspection hours and were distributed without inspection. Does un-inspected pork put consumers at risk of foodborne illness?
Food Safety Concerns Prompt Recall
Morris Meat Packing announced a recall of several pork products in November 2019 after the FSIS received an anonymous tip that the company was distributing products without proper inspection. After following up, the FSIS noted that 515,000 pounds of pork products were distributed without being inspected.
Due to significant food safety concerns, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is classifying the recall as a Class I with a high health risk.
Pork Recall Information for Consumers
Morris Meat Packing distributed the pork products to several distributors and retailers in Illinois. Consumers should be aware of the following information:
- The products affected are raw, intact pork items (full list is available here).
- All products were produced on Saturdays between November 25, 2017 to November 9, 2019.
- All products have an establishment number of “EST. 18267” on the label.
If you come across these products at your local retailer, the FSIS urges you to avoid purchasing them. If you have these items in your refrigerator or freezer, do not eat them. Throw them away, or return them to the place of purchase.
Food that is not properly inspected is a significant food safety concern. Without proper inspection, consumers may consume food that is contaminated or unsafe. Because of this risk, the FDA is classifying this recall as a Class I, meaning that there is a reasonable risk of illness if the product is consumed.
Illnesses Caused by Unsafe Pork
It is incredibly important that all meat being sold at grocery stores is inspected. Meat that is contaminated with parasites or bacteria is a leading cause of foodborne illness. Some of the illnesses that could result from unsafe or un-inspected pork include:
- Salmonella: Salmonella is caused by contamination with animal feces, which can happen during slaughter and packing of meat. Symptoms include fever, nausea, abdominal cramps and diarrhea. Generally resolves within a week, but symptoms may last for several weeks.
- E. Coli: Pigs are a carrier of E. coli and can transmit it to humans even if the pig is not sick. E. coli symptoms include severe abdominal cramps, diarrhea and vomiting. Serious E. coli infections may also lead to hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).
- Listeria: Listeria infection, listeriosis, causes fever, diarrhea and muscle aches. It is caused by contamination with Listeria monocytogenes bacteria. Serious infections are dangerous in children, pregnant women and the elderly.
- Trichinellosis: Pork that contains larva of a Trichinella worm can cause trichinellosis infection. Symptoms include fever, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and diarrhea. Some people develop additional symptoms including headache, joint pain, cough and eye swelling. Severe infections can cause breathing problems, heart problems and even death.
- Staphylococcus Aureus: Staphylococcus aureus is one of the more dangerous illnesses that people get from eating pork. Staphylococcus aureus cannot be destroyed by cooking the meat. Therefore, sliced meats are a common cause of the illness. Symptoms include abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
Federal law requires that all meat that is sold commercially be inspected prior to distribution. The Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA) requires inspection for any livestock that is produced for human consumption. Inspectors supervise and inspect the facility, equipment and meat. They also ensure proper handling and food safety practices are followed.
FSIS inspections related to meat slaughter and packing include the following:
- Inspectors work at fixed positions within the slaughter line.
- Inspectors look for indications of disease or pathological conditions.
- If a carcass shows signs of disease or pathological conditions it is segregated for further examination.
- Inspectors ensure that all carcasses are identified and passed inspection without restriction.
- Any carcass that does not pass without restriction must be removed from the product line and cannot be distributed to consumers.
What Consumers Should Know about Food Safety
Of course, recalls due to food safety are unnerving. As consumers, we trust that the food we purchase, cook and consume is safe. We also trust that it is properly inspected. Learning that a popular food like pork is being distributed without inspection is certainly cause for alarm.
If you are concerned about food safety, there are a few things that you can do to protect your family. First, if you become ill after eating a product that may be recalled, contact your healthcare provider. Some foodborne illnesses are serious and can lead to complications without proper treatment.
Next, you can contact the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline if you have questions about the products in this recall. And finally, stay tuned to Bad Food Recall and follow us on Facebook. We update readers with the latest information about recalls and food safety concerns. We are also here to offer advice if you are ill as a result of a recalled product.
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