WELLINGTON, New Zealand -- A New Zealand meat company has recalled several of its products after tests showed a possible link to a listeria outbreak that left two patients dead at a hospital in the island nation.
Bay Cuisine, which supplies the hospital, voluntarily recalled certain salami, pepperoni and ham products on Wednesday. New Zealand supermarkets that sell the Napier-based company's products have pulled them from the shelves. The company does not sell its products abroad.
Four patients at Hawke's Bay Hospital in the central North Island town of Hastings have been diagnosed with the bacterial disease since May 9, spokeswoman Anna Kirk said.
She said listeria likely caused the death of one woman and was a contributing factor in the death of a second. One woman who died was in her 80s, the other in her 60s, and both had weakened immune systems, Kirk said. The other two people diagnosed have since recovered, she added.
Kirk said the hospital at first wasn't able to identify the source of the listeria but then found that some supplied meats tested positive.
Simon Wills, Bay Cuisine's joint managing director, said that the source of contamination at the hospital has yet to be determined.
In a statement Thursday, he that the hospital outbreak is of "significant concern" and the company has employed an independent food safety expert to review its practices and procedures. He said the recalled products represent only a small fraction of what is produced at the company, which prides itself on its quality and safety.
Listeria is a foodborne illness that is especially dangerous to pregnant women, newborn babies and those with compromised immune systems. It rarely causes serious illness in healthy people and can be treated with antibiotics. Symptoms include fever, muscle aches, nausea and diarrhea.