Sara Lee Deli Products
sara lee recall

Sara Lee recalled deli products and hot dogs in 1998 when it was found that they were making people sick with listeria, a deadly disease.

AP Photo/Al Behrman


In one of the largest meat recalls in history, Sara Lee Corp. recalled about 35 million pounds (almost 16,000 tons) of their deli products and hot dogs in December 1998 [source: Perl]­. Cases of listeria had been linked to the meat from a Bil Mar Foods plant. Never heard of listeriosis? It's not as well known as E. coli and salmonella, but it happens to be more deadly. In this case, it's believed the outbreak contributed to 21 deaths and more than 100 cases of illness [source: New York Times].

The recall itself cost about $76 million [source: Licking]. But that isn't counting the millions more the company would later fork over in lawsuits. In addition, it spent about $25 million to renovate the Bil Mar plant [source: Barboza]. There, it pointed to the presence of debris, old meat and a roach infestation as possible contributors to the outbreak.