The latest Listeria outbreak is a warning to consumers to be responsible for the safety of their own food.
Listeriosis, caused by the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes, is one of many food-borne illnesses that have made headlines in Canadian newspapers. (E.coli and Salmonella are other examples of harmful bacteria found in food.)
Listeria is more likely to cause death than other bacteria that cause food poisoning - particularly in high-risk individuals like the elderly, children, and pregnant women.
Unlike most bacteria, Listeria can survive and grow on foods being stored in the refrigerator. Moreover, foods that are contaminated with this bacterium look, smell, and taste normal.
The good news is that Listeria can be killed by proper cooking procedures. Here are some food safety tips to put into practice to avoid listeriosis:
- Avoid eating hot dogs, luncheon meats, bologna, or other deli meats unless they are reheated until steaming hot.
- Wash raw vegetables thoroughly before eating. Prepackaged salads in a bag should also be washed to prevent food poisoning.
- Follow “use by” dates especially on packaged goods with a long shelf life.
- Do not eat refrigerated pâté, meat spreads from a meat counter, or smoked seafood found in the refrigerated section of the store.
Avoid eating soft cheese - such as Feta, Brie, Camembert, and blue-veined cheeses - unless the label says, "MADE WITH PASTEURIZED MILK."
- Frequently wash and disinfect the refrigerator. The more often it is cleaned, the less chance there will be for Listeria to be transferred from contaminated surfaces and foods.
- Check the temperature in your refrigerator using a thermometer to make sure it is at 4°C (40°F) or below. As the storage temperature increases, so does the growth of Listeria in foods. The higher the number of bacteria in foods, the greater is the risk of getting sick.
- After handling raw foods such as meat and fish, thoroughly clean and sanitize all surfaces used for food preparation with a bleach solution (5 ml bleach to 750 ml of water), and rinse with water.
- Keep leftovers for a maximum of four days only and reheat them to an internal temperature of 74°C (165°F) before eating them.
Symptoms of listeriosis include vomiting, nausea, cramps, diarhhea, severe headaches or muscle aches, and fever. In some cases, these symptoms can escalated into meningitis encephalitis (an infection of the brain or its surrounding tissues) and/or septicemia (blood poisoning).
Contact your physician immediately if you think you have listeriosis.
(Source: Health Canada, 2005. Available at http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hl-vs/iyh-vsv/food-aliment/listeria-eng.php)
All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.