The first package of hot dogs was already eaten before Bob Cipperly of Evans got the news it might be contaminated with a potentially deadly strain of bacteria.
Other than some mild stomach complaints, "we didn't get sick from it," said Mr. Cipperly, 62, who says he is in good health and rarely gets sick.
The Cipperly family may be fortunate, as the federal Centers for Disease Control continues to get reports of more cases of sickness and death from a particular strain of Listeria monocytogenes that has been traced to the Bil Mar Foods plant in Zeeland, Mich. The CDC now reports 79 confirmed cases in 17 states, including Georgia, which killed 12 adults and caused three miscarriages.
An Augusta family is still awaiting word on whether Jesse Elizabeth Rachels, 68, who died of Listeria meningitis Nov. 21, was part of the outbreak who so far has been missed.
Mr. Cipperly, who still has the second package of Bryan hotdogs from the lots recalled by the company, has offered the package to the Rachels family if they need it for comparison testing. The Rachels family has contacted Chicago attorney Kenneth Moll, who is suing Bil Mar and parent company Sara Lee, and now awaits results from his testing.
"Not knowing is the hard part," said Mrs. Rachels' daughter-in-law, Marty Rachels.
Meanwhile, state officials are helping in a second recall of hot dogs and deli products potentially contaminated with Listeria. Georgia Department of Agriculture inspectors are working with stores to find the Thorn Apple Valley meat products identified by the company. The CDC has not received word of anyone sickened from that contamination, said CDC spokeswoman Katie Hoskins.
Listeria is a fairly common bacteria that can sometimes taint food products but is killed by heat and even when eaten is usually handled by a healthy person's immune system, said Keith Woeltje, infectious disease physician and hospital epidemiologist at Medical College of Georgia.
Food-borne illnesses are often difficult for public health officials to combat, though the area has been fortunate that there have been few, said East Central Health District Director Frank Rumph.
The last major outbreak of salmonella a few years ago was actually caught by Augusta physician Charles Shaefer when he noticed several patients who had gastrointestinal problems attended the same church, Dr. Rumph said. That kind of cooperation in cases where problems like Listeria aren't required to be reported is key in helping the health department, Dr. Rumph said.
Sara Lee has issued a recall of the following products, which have the establishment numbers EST P261 or EST 6911 on the outer edge of the package: hot dogs and deli meats with the brand names Ball Park, Bil Mar, Bryan Bunsize, Bryan 3-lb Club Pack, Grillmaster, Hygrade, Mr. Turkey, Sara Lee Deli Meat and Sara Lee Home Roast brands.
Thorn Apple Valley is recalling hot dogs and lunch combination packages under a variety of brand names bearing the codes EST 13529 and EST P-13529 that also may be contaminated with Lysteria monocytogenes. The company can be reached and a list of brands affected can be obtained by calling (800) 839-2427.