Listeriosis: 10 Ways to Protect Yourself
Listeria is more likely to cause death than other bacteria that cause food poisoning. Here, 10 ways you can reduce your risk of infection
Food-borne illnesses affect up to 13 million Canadians, or more than 40 per cent of the population, each year according to public health experts.
Listeriosis, considered to be more severe than other forms of food poisoning, can cause brain damage and even death. It is caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes (commonly known as Listeria), which is found in soil, vegetation, water, sewage and the feces of animals and humans.
Symptoms often severe
Symptoms of an infection are often more severe than other forms of food poisoning and can include nausea, vomiting, cramps, diarrhea, headache, constipation, and persistent fever. If it spreads to the nervous system, symptoms may also include severe headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions. After eating contaminated food, symptoms usually appear within two to 30 days, but can take as long as 90 days.
10 ways to protect yourself
Reduce your risk of contracting Listeriosis (as well as other food-borne illnesses) by following these 10 steps.
– Read and follow all package labels and instructions on food preparation and storage.
– After handling foods, especially raw foods such as meat and fish, thoroughly clean and sanitize all surfaces used for food preparation with a kitchen sanitizer or a bleach solution (5 ml household bleach to 750 ml of water), and rinse with water.
– To avoid cross-contamination, clean all knives, cutting boards and utensils used with raw food before using them again.
– Thoroughly clean fruits and vegetables before you eat them. (See Keep healthy foods healthy.)
– Refrigerate or freeze perishable food, prepared food and leftovers within two hours.
– Defrost food in the refrigerator, in cold water or in the microwave, but never at room temperature.
Foods to watch out for
You can lower your risk of Listeriosis by avoiding certain foods such as hot dogs, especially if you’re in the habit of eating them straight from the package. (The fluid in hot dog packages may contain more Listeria than the hot dogs.) Before eating, hot dogs should be cooked thoroughly until steaming hot.
Non-dried deli meats also carry a higher risk of Listeriosis. (However, dried and salted deli meats such as salami and pepperoni generally do not support the growth of Listeria.) As with hot dogs, you can reduce your risk by reheating deli-meats until steaming hot.
Other foods to be wary of include:
– Soft and semi-soft cheeses such as feta, Brie, Camembert and blue-veined cheese if they are made from unpasteurized milk.
– Refrigerated pâté and meat spreads.
– Refrigerated smoked seafood and fish.