Listeriosis is a serious infection caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. The disease affects primarily pregnant women, newborns and adults with weakened immune systems. It can be avoided by following a few simple recommendations.
What are the symptoms?
A person with listeriosis has fever, muscle aches and sometimes gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea or diarrhea. If infection spreads to the nervous system, symptoms such as headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance or convulsions can occur. Most healthy persons can consume contaminated foods without becoming ill.
How does Listeria get into food?
The bacterium has been found in a variety of raw foods, such as uncooked meats and vegetables, as well as in processed foods that become contaminated after processing, such as soft cheeses and cold cuts at the deli counter.
Listeria is killed by pasteurization and cooking; however, in certain ready-to-eat foods such as hot dogs and deli meats, contamination may occur after cooking but before packaging.
How can I reduce the risk for listeriosis?
ï Thoroughly cook raw food from animal sources, such as beef, pork or poultry.
ï Separate raw meat, poultry and seafood from vegetables and cooked or ready-to-eat foods.
ï Wash hands, knives and cutting boards after handling raw foods.
ï Wash uncooked vegetables thoroughly before eating.
ï Do not drink unpasteurized (raw) milk.
Recommendations for persons at high risk, such as pregnant women and the elderly:
ï Do not eat hot dogs, deli meats or luncheon meats unless they are reheated until steaming hot.
ï Avoid getting fluid from hot dog packages on other foods, utensils and food preparation surfaces, and wash hands after handling hot dogs, deli meats and luncheon meats.
ï Do not eat soft cheeses such as feta, Brie and Camembert, blue-veined cheeses, or Mexican-style cheeses such as queso blanco, queso fresco and Panela unless they have labels that clearly state they are made from pasteurized milk.
ï Do not drink unpasteurized (raw) milk and do not eat foods that contain unpasteurized milk.
ï Do not eat refrigerated p5/8tÈs or meat spreads. Canned or shelf-stable p5/8tÈs and meat spreads may be eaten.
ï Do not eat refrigerated smoked seafood unless it is an ingredient in a cooked dish, such as a casserole. Canned or shelf-stable smoked seafood may be eaten.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention