What is Listeriosis and How to Prevent It
Many people recently mourned the recall of their favorite ice cream due to listeria. This recall brought questions about this bacteria and how it could contaminate something like ice cream. Even though foods may look, smell, and taste fine, they can be contaminated with bacteria. Fortunately, we can all take positive steps for food safety at home.
Listeriosis is a serious illness that is caused by eating food contaminated with the bacteria listeria monocytogenes. It is the third leading cause of death from food poisoning. Listeria monocytogenes is found in dirt, water, and plants.
Unlike most bacteria, listeria monocytogenes can grow at refrigerator temperatures (as low as 40 degrees Fahrenheit). The bacteria have been found in a variety of foods such as sprouts, raw milk, unpasteurized dairy products, and ready-to-eat foods like deli meats, hot dogs, and soft cheeses. Listeria can be killed by cooking and pasteurization.
Consumers can take some simple steps to help keep listeria out of their kitchens. It is important to wash fruits and vegetables under running water just before eating, cutting, or cooking. Firm produce, such as melons and cucumbers, should be scrubbed with a clean produce brush.
Avoid consuming unpasteurized milk and soft cheeses that are not made with pasteurized milk. Set your refrigerator at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower and your freezer at 0 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. Prevent cross contamination by wrapping or covering foods with a sheet of plastic wrap or foil. You can also put foods in plastic bags or clean covered containers before you place them in the refrigerator. It is important to store items in the refrigerator so that meats and poultry cannot leak juices onto other foods.
Clean your refrigerator regularly, and immediately clean up any spills from hot dog and lunch meat packages or from raw meat or poultry. Washing your hands and cleaning kitchen surfaces often will also help prevent the spread of bacteria.
If there is a recall such as the recent ice cream recall, do not eat any of the recalled products. Throw recalled products away or return them to the place of purchase even if some of the product has been consumed without anyone becoming sick.
Clean and sanitize the inside walls and shelves of your refrigerator, freezer or any surfaces that had contact with the recalled products. Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds after handling any recalled products.
Following basic food safety steps of “Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill” will help protect your family from foodborne illnesses such as listeriosis. Always remember: “When in doubt, throw it out.” You can learn more by visiting www.lsuagcenter.com.