Dozens of families have no idea the Christmas ham sitting in their fridge could be contaminated with a potentially deadly bacteria.
More than 200 high-end half leg hams were urgently recalled amid fears they contained Listeria, which can send those poisoned into septic shock.
Vic’s Meats, which distributed the hams, admitted it still did not know how many of the $175 premium meats were unaccounted for.
The pigs used in Vic’s Meat’s hams lived on a free range farm near Byron Bay on the NSW north coast (pictured after being slaughtered)
The company said 206 Kurobuta Berkshire 4.5kg half leg hams with a best before date of January 29, 2019, were affected – about 10 per cent of Christmas sales.
Customers to its butcher shops in Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane bought 21, with five hams still unaccounted for.
The rest were sold to Simon Johnson butchers, which Vic’s Meats said was still trying to work out how many hams were bought and who to.
The company said the ‘remote chance’ of potential contamination was discovered in routine quality assurance testing.
‘Your health and trust is our first and last priority,’ the company said.
‘While remote, we have taken swift and decisive action to recall all potentially affected products and no one is at risk.’
Australians are being urged to check their Christmas hams amid a mass recall and fears of contamination in Vic’s Premium Quality Meat’s 4.5kg bone-in half ham legs (pictured)
Vic’s Meats said it was conducting a detailed investigation with the meat’s producer to find out how its process could have been compromised.
The company promised to share the findings of its investigation publicly.
‘We need to point out, the brining, cooking and smoking of the Hams was not conducted by Vic’s,’ it said.
‘There is no risk of cross-contamination with any other products manufactured at our facilities.’
The NSW Food Authority issued the recall on Friday and urged shoppers to seek medical advice if they had concerns for their health.
The hams bought from Simon Johnson, Victor Churchill, and Vic’s Meat Market stores could now be returned for a full refund.
Dozens of families have no idea the Vic’s Meats Christmas ham (pictured) sitting in their fridge could be contaminated with a deadly bacteria
Each are sold in either a brown cardboard box with Victor Churchill illustration, or a white cardboard box with Vic’s Meat illustration.
Kurobuta Berkshire, known as the ‘Waygu of pork’, is some of the most expensive pork in Australia and widely considered to be the best breed.
The pigs used in Vic’s Meat’s hams lived on a free range farm near Byron Bay on the NSW north coast.
The company’s Victor Churchill butcher sells numerous high-end meats for the Christmas dinner tables of Sydney’s wealthiest families.
It has been referred to as the ‘poshest butcher in Sydney’ and its Kurobuta pork is sold in luxury restaurants.
Listeria’s symptoms include headache, fever, tiredness, diarrhoea and abdominal cramps and can in rare cases can lead to sepsis or meningitis.
The company said 206 Kurobuta Berkshire 4.5kg half leg hams with a best before date of January 29, 2019, were affected
Pregnant woman, the elderly and people with low immune systems are at an increased risk of being affected.
Earlier this year Listeria threw Australia’s rockmelon industry into disarray after seven people died following an outbreak at a New South Wales farm which grew the fruit.
Sales of rockmelon soon plummeted and eventually failed to recover as more cases of Listeriosis emerged across the country’s east.
The Australian Melon Association estimated growers could have lost up to $60 million after consumers were not immediately reassured of the fruit’s safety.
WHAT IS LISTERIA?
WHAT IT IS, THE RISKS, AND HOW TO AVOID IT
- Listeria is everywhere in the environment
- It’s a type of bacterium that infects humans and other warm-blooded animals through contaminated food
- It’s found in dirty water, irrigation water, soil and fertiliser
- Soft cheeses such as Camembert; cold chicken and deli meats; raw seafood and cold seafood such as smoked salmon; ice cream, fresh fruit and bagged vegetables can also carry Listeria
- Infection can also occur through contact with animals and pests and insufficient cleaning of contaminated fruit and unclean hands
WHO IS SUSCEPTIBLE … AND THE SYMPTOMS
- Pregnant women, infants, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems are most at risk
- Listeria starts with flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, muscle aches, nausea and sometimes diarrhoea
- The time from consuming the bacterium to showing the signs of illness can often be between 8 to 90 days
- Some people end up in hospital with dehydration
HOW TO AVOID IT
- Don’t buy bruised or damaged fruit, wash it before eating and refrigerate within two hours of slicing
- Avoid foods past their ‘best before’ or ‘use by’ date
- Cook foods thoroughly
- Reheat food until it is steaming hot
- Refrigerate leftovers promptly and use within 24 hours, or freeze
- Ready to eat food should never be stored in the fridge for too long as Listeria is one of the few pathogens that can grow in the refrigerator
Source: Food Authority NSW, Food Safety Information Council