Risks and Tips for Avoiding Listeria Contamination


Listeria monocytogenes is a deadly foodborne bacterium that can be found in soil, water, and in some animals. It’s particularly stubborn because it can live even in cold temperatures, such as in a refrigerator. The only way to kill the germ is through pasteurization or by heating.

The elderly, the very young (or unborn), and the immunocompromised are high risk for developing a Listeria infection from contaminated food or water. It can stubbornly persist in many foods, such as unpasteurized milk and cheese, meat, vegetables and seafood. Most alarming, Listeria can be lethal to both humans and animals.

Since its recognition, Listeria has caused sporadic outbreaks, causing serious and life-threatening sickness that have taken an economic toll on public health services and the food service industry. Here are some tips for avoiding contamination by this potentially deadly pathogen.

Thoroughly Rinse Produce

Whether at home or in a commercial kitchen, rinsing raw produce is an important first step in prevention of foodborne illness. Be sure to rinse the produce thoroughly under running tap water (as opposed to standing water) before preparing or eating.

Completely Cook Meat

Always know the proper temperature to cook food from animal sources or seafood. A safe internal temperature for ground meats is 160°F, for poultry 165°F, and for steaks, chops and roasts cook to 145°F. Be sure to always use a thermometer to verify internal temperatures.

Prevent Cross-Contamination

One essential rule of the kitchen should be to keep uncooked meat, poultry, and seafood separated from fresh vegetables, fruit, and other cooked foods. Cross-contamination can happen easily and even one missed step can lead to the contamination of all of your ingredients.

Wash Hands/Tools Frequently

Washing hands, knives, food preparation surfaces, such as counters and cutting boards, is the number one way to keep your food safe from bacteria. Washing frequently and thoroughly after handling or preparing uncooked foods is the simplest and most economical way to combat contamination.

Following these simple steps can help you take great strides towards protecting the health of your family or customers from deadly bacteria.

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