Notification of Food Safety Recall

September 28, 2019

To: Our Valued Partners
RE: Notification of Food Safety Recall

Today, after extensive testing and in conjunction with the USDA, and out of an abundance of caution for consumers’ health and wellness, we are doing a voluntary recall of all cooked, hot deboned fowl meat produced during the time frame from January 22, 2019 to September 24, 2019. Only products from this single line at our ready-to-eat cooking facility in Rockmart, Georgia are affected. Tip Top Poultry is shutting down this fowl cooking line until it identifies the source of any potential contamination and completely eliminates it.

You have placed tremendous trust in us as a partner. And so, we feel it is our duty to share with you all of the information we currently have as it pertains to the recall and our food safety efforts.

In early summer, we received word from the Centers for Disease Control that they were investigating an outbreak of listeriosis. As part of their investigation, the United States of Agriculture (USDA) and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) were testing consumer products to determine if they could find a source for the illnesses.

During this testing, on August 17, Tip Top was notified of a test of its product, which was positive for listeria monocytogenes. There were 10 samples pulled from a food court in Manitoba and only one of the 10 samples had listeria mono in it. We were shocked, saddened and moved to action when we learned this. Immediately we retained a third-party sanitation firm to review our sanitation program, create a thorough intensified cleaning plan for our ready-to-eat cooking facility in Rockmart, Georgia plant and oversee that intensified cleaning event. We subsequently shut down the cooking line for this cleaning process to address any potential sources in the facility. The cleaning was completed on September 2.

On September 25, after celebrating that day the 30-year anniversary of the plant being in operation, we were notified that another case of product tested positive for listeria monocytogenes at a Canadian lab. While reviewing the situation, including making a visit to the location of the tested product, and discussing the response with Canadian and US authorities, we were notified of three additional tests which came back positive from additional Canadian tests.

As a family business, we take food safety seriously because it is so critical to our own families and friends’ health and safety in addition to anyone who consumes our products. Therefore, we made a series of serious decisions. First, we placed all of the products from that cooking line on hold so that no more risk would be introduced into the marketplace. In addition, we conducted a voluntary recall of all items from that production line since January 21 even though only a few days tested positive.

Second, we retained an independent expert on operational food safety and listeria programs to review what we do and help us identify any root sources and address them. Third, we shut down that cooking line until we have any sources identified and eliminated. Fourth, our team began to investigate the line for any potential root causes. We will scour the line to look for any potential root causes. We will not pack any products from this line until we have conducted a full investigation, identified any root causes, and fully remediated them to ensure the ongoing safe food production.

Over the years, we implemented a thorough HACCP program, welcomed hundreds of external auditors, and went on to achieve the Global Food Safety Initiative’s BRC rating of AA, the highest rating that a facility can achieve on the scale. We constantly strive for continuous improvement, accepting recommendations and changing our behaviors whenever we found a better way. Our people in Rockmart are like family to us and they work tirelessly to achieve the high levels of food safety that are required to keep the North American food supply chain safe for consumers.

While we know that no system is perfect, our extensive listeria monitoring and product sampling program was established to prevent any potential risks from making it to the supply chain. We randomly test the environment for listeria throughout the plant so that we can address and resolve any possible issues. In addition, we pull fifteen product samples from each cooking line every day and composite test those samples for listeria. Before any product can ship from our control, all the product tests from that line must come back negative.

In closing, the decisions we made to recall such a broad range of dates and shut down the line will be very costly to us, but we live by the motto a friend once told me – “People over Profit.” It’s a good motto and one that reminds me of the Golden Rule – do unto others as you would have them do unto you. As difficult as these decisions are, we feel like they are the right ones to make. We hope that we will be able to retain the trust of our customers that cooked chicken they purchase from us will be the safest available because we take food safety seriously and act with integrity at Tip Top Poultry.

With Sincere Gratitude,
Brad Respess

Timeline of Events 

  • August 17 - notified by Canadian lab of positive listeria mono results in 1 case from 1/21 product day-code
    • 10 samples were pulled from a food court, 9 of the 10 tested negative, only 1 tested positive for listeria mono
  • August 18 – Canadian recall of 1/21 product
  • August 21 – US recall of 1/21 product
  • August 22 – Retained third-party sanitation firm Packers to review sanitation program, create thorough intensified cleaning of plant and oversee intensified cleaning event.
  • August 30 – shut down plant August 30 – September 2 for intensified cleaning
  • September 25 - notified by Canadian lab of positive listeria mono results in 1 case from 7/29 product day-code
    • 85 samples were pulled from a truck entering Canada. 84 tested negative, only 1 tested positive for listeria mono
  • September 26 – Tip Top representative traveled to British Columbia to inspect product and warehouse conditions
  • September 27 – Retained Expert Third-Party consultant
  • September 27 – Canadian recall of 7/29 product
  • September 27 – notified by Canadian lab of positive listeria mono results in 3 cases from at least two of the following product day-codes: 7/8, 8/7, 8/9 and 8/16
  • September 28 – Voluntary recall of all cooked meat items with item codes in the ranges 10000-19999 and 70000-79999 from 1/22 through 9/24