Listeria has been in the news recently. This foodborne bacteria can grow at refrigerator temperatures, causing listeriosis, an illness that can take a few days or even weeks to appear. Symptoms may include fever, chills, muscle aches, nausea, and diarrhea or upset stomach.
Listeriosis can be particularly harmful to at-risk groups.
Listeriosis can be particularly harmful to at-risk groups. These groups include pregnant women and their unborn babies, newborns, older adults, and other people with weakened immune systems, such as individuals with HIV/AIDS, cancer, diabetes, or kidney disease, and transplant patients. Not only are these groups of people more likely to contract listeriosis, but they are also more likely to have a lengthier illness, undergo hospitalization, or even die.
How to Prevent ListeriosisCenters for Disease Control and Prevention, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommend that consumers follow these three easy steps to help prevent listeriosis:
- Use an appliance thermometer and keep the refrigerator at 40°F (4°C) or below. Listeria will multiply faster at refrigerated temperatures above 40°F.
- Use ready-to-eat, refrigerated foods as soon as possible. The longer these foods are stored in the refrigerator, the more time listeria has to multiply, which means larger amounts of bacteria in the foods.
- Clean the refrigerator regularly. Listeria can spread from one food to another through spills in the refrigerator – so keeping the refrigerator clean is very important.
If you are a person at increased risk of listeriosis, follow these guidelines:
- Don’t eat hot dogs, luncheon meats, cold cuts, or fermented or dried sausages unless they are heated to 165°F or until steaming hot just before serving.
- Avoid getting fluid from hot dog and lunch meat packages on other foods, utensils, and food preparation surfaces, and wash hands after handling hot dogs, luncheon meats, and deli meats.
- Do not eat refrigerated pâté or meat spreads from a deli or meat counter or from the refrigerated section of a store. If the label says a food does not need refrigeration, like canned or shelf-stable pâté and meat spreads, it is safe to eat. Refrigerate after opening.
• Do not eat soft cheese such as feta, brie, Camembert, blue-veined cheeses, queso fresco, queso blanco or panela unless it is labeled “made with pasteurized milk.”