Fans of Texas BBQ were no doubt horrified to see the headline, “Southside Market & BBQ Sausage Recalled” Thursday.
But while the potential listeria contamination of approximately 2,373 pounds of sausage was a serious food safety issue, the recall of three different fully cooked, ready-to-eat sausage products only applied to Southside’s wholesale business, not its BBQ joint’s famous “hot guts.”
“We make about seven different sausage products that we ship out to retailers and restaurants, and we make two kinds of sausage that we cook here in the restaurant,” Southside owner and CEO Bryan Bracewell told TM Daily Post.
“All the main products that are shipped to retailers in restaurants are smoked fully cooked products,” said Bracewell, whose family has run the 130 year-old market since 1968. “The main product that we cook here in the restaurant, in our BBQ joint, is a fresh beef sausage that we barbecue on site in the restaurant.”
The restaurant also serves a smoked, fully-cooked cheddar-jalapeno pork and beef sausage, but that was not part of the recall either.
The sausages that were part of the recall, which the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service categorized as Class I (health risk: high), included different-sized packages of “Southside Market & BBQ Original Beef Sausage” as well as “Southside Market & BBQ 1882 Hot Recipe Beef Sausage.” (Read the FSIS’s recall announcement to see the specific sizes and lot numbers.)
Listeria, which is commonly associated with deli meat, hot dogs, and packaged cheese, is an environmental contaminant that would have likely come in contact with the sausage after it was cooked but before it had been packaged. It can also grow in home refrigerators if food is not stored at the proper temperature (between zero and forty degrees Fahrenheit).
As the FSIS explains:
Consumption of food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes can cause listeriosis, an uncommon but potentially fatal disease. Healthy people rarely contract listeriosis. However, listeriosis can cause high fever, severe headache, neck stiffness and nausea. Listeriosis can also cause miscarriages and stillbirths, as well as serious and sometimes fatal infections in those with weakened immune systems, such as infants, the elderly and persons with HIV infection or undergoing chemotherapy.
There have been no illnesses reported from the potential contamination, which was discovered Wednesday during routine sampling at Southside’s processing facility, which has a full-time USDA inspector on site during operation. Swab testing to determine the source of the contamination, as well as as a full cleaning and a reassessment of the plant’s food safety protocols, are already under way.
As Ricardo Gandara of the Austin American-Statesman reported, H-E-B was among the retail customers that had been carrying the recalled sausage, with nine hundred pounds distributed to 58 stores in Central Texas, San Antonio, and the border region, and sold between March 17 and 21. H-E-B spokesperson Leticia Mendoza said there had been no reports of illness from their customers.
Bracewell said the recalled meat was also sold directly to seven Internet mail-order customers, all of whom have since been contacted.
“All those customers have indicated to us that they will destroy it or did destroy it, and we’ll send them replacement product this coming Monday,” he said.
One person who identified themselves as an Elgin resident commenting at the Statesman website was unconcerned, writing:
I have absolutely NO PROBLEM w/ eating at Southside either today, tomorrow or in the future…I have their sausage in my fridge as we “speak”. They also processed my venison for me…
Unfortunately, things happen, but it won’t keep me from eating/shopping there…anybody want to join me for lunch tomorrow??? Seriously!!!
“We’ve been here for 130 years and this is our first product recall,” Bracewell says. “We take this extremely seriously. Anything short of perfect in food safety and public health is unacceptable.”