Food Safety

Coping with Listeria

You see it on the news; there’s a listeria outbreak and the FDA issues a recall on certain food items. It all sounds pretty scary, and for good reason. Although it is a rare disease, primarily affecting pregnant women, newborns, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems, invasive listeriosis typically requires hospital care, and about one in five people with the infection die. When listeriosis occurs during pregnancy, it can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, or newborn death. Listeriosis during pregnancy results in fetal loss in about 20 percent and newborn death in about 3 percent of cases, according the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As a food handler there are some common sense things you can do to help prevent the spread of listeria, and to protect yourself from infection. According to the Food and Drug Administration, start by not selling or serving any recalled item. Sometimes it can be a challenge to know whether a particular item is on the list, the old rule of thumb, “when in doubt, throw it out” takes over. Wash and sanitize any container, display case or storage bin where any contaminated product was stored. Since the listeria bacteria can live at refrigerated temperatures, cross contamination is a real possibility. Any food items that might be contaminated should be discarded.

One of the easiest and most effective means of protecting yourself and your customers is frequent cleaning and sanitizing of cutting boards and utensils. And of course, don’t forget to wash your hands with soap and warm water after the cleaning and sanitizing process.

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