Pilgrim's Pride subsidiary Wampler Foods yesterday [Sunday] expanded a voluntary nationwide recall of cooked deli products produced at its Franconia, Pennsylvania, facility between 1 May and 11 October 2002.

Wampler took this precautionary action immediately after learning from the United States Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service that environmental sampling suggested the continued presence in the plant of the strain of Listeria in the 9 October recalled product. Wampler has ceased operations at the Franconia plant.

The Wampler cooked deli products were sold to consumers in retail groceries, delicatessens and foodservice distributors under the Wampler Foods and select private labels.

Approximately 27.4 million pounds of cooked deli product were produced and shipped during the five-month period included in the recall.

Wampler received test results from samples taken in plant floor drains at its facility that tested positive for a strain of Listeria similar to the strain identified in the recent northeastern outbreak. This strain, according to governmental officials, while uncommon, is not uniquely identifiable to a single source. No illnesses associated with the Listeria strain in the northeastern US outbreak have been linked to any Wampler products.

Wampler Foods has urged consumers who have eaten the affected product and are experiencing any of the symptoms related to food-borne illness to immediately seek medical attention.

Consumption of food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes can cause listeriosis, an uncommon but potentially fatal disease. Healthy people rarely contract listeriosis, but it can cause miscarriages and stillbirths, as well as serious and sometimes fatal infections in those with weak immune systems - infants, the frail or elderly and persons with chronic disease, with HIV infection, or those undergoing chemotherapy.

Around 2,500 cases of listeriosis occur each year in the United States. Listeria bacteria can be destroyed by cooking meat to a temperature of at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit (71 C).