Do you know the dangers of listeria?
Listeria monocytogenes is an organism that can grow in foods, particularly fruit, dairy products and ready-to-eat meats, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It usually grows in food that has not been properly refrigerated or has been kept around too long. If consumed, the bacteria can cause an infection with effects ranging from fever and nausea to, in extreme cases, meningitis, blood poisoning, miscarriages or even death.
“Listeria is a lesser-known foodborne bacteria that holds particular risks for certain groups, including older adults, pregnant women, newborns and adults with weakened immune systems,” says Pam Bierbaum, infection preventionist at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Ill.
Listeria outbreaks are serious, but relatively rare.
“The recent recalls and associated illnesses have reminded us of the need to always follow safe food handling and storage guidelines,” says Bierbaum. “These basic practices are protective for a number of illnesses and therefore should be part of everyone’s routine.”
- Thoroughly wash all fruits and vegetables under running water, even if you intend to peel them. Use a clean produce brush for firm produce like melons.
- Avoid unpasteurized or “raw” dairy products, especially if you fall into the higher-risk category for listeria infection.
- Keep refrigerated foods at a temperature of 40 degrees or lower, and frozen foods at 0 degrees or lower.
- Use ready-to-eat foods and leftovers as soon as you can.
- Clean the inside of the refrigerator regularly with warm water and liquid soap. Clean up spills immediately – other foods can be contaminated by listeria through spills or leaks from infected products.
- Clean kitchen surfaces often. Food preparation areas and cutting boards should be washed with warm soapy water and sanitized with a kitchen sanitizer product.
- Wash your hands with soap and warm water at least 20-seconds before and after handling food.
- Wash dish towels and cloth shopping bags in hot water frequently.
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