In recognition of National Food Safety Education Month, we are presenting a four part mini-series here on the Food Bank blog. You’ll get information and ideas you can act upon to make your food and your family safer!
Here is Part 3: Listeria—Is It Hiding in Your Kitchen?
Continuing in our string of blog posts for National Food Education Month, this week we want to focus on a bacteria that can affect not only our raw meats, but also your deli meats, hot dogs, produce, and other prepared foods. It’s called Listeria…and it’s not something to take lightly.
What is Listeria?
Listeria is a bacteria that can affect both raw and cooked foods. Sometimes it is found in food processing plants, but other times it can infect foods post-preparation. When infected foods are consumed, a serious illness called listerosis may result. Those infected typically have fevers, muscle aches, and diarrhea. Other serious illnesses may follow, such as meningitis and septicemia.
Who is Most at Risk?
While anyone can face the ill effects of listeria, these groups are most at risk:
Pregnant women—Pregnant women probably experience the biggest risk to listerosis. That’s because not only are they personally at risk, but so are their babies. Listerosis can result in miscarriage, still birth, and even post-birth death.
Older adults—Since older adults typically have weakened immune systems, coming into contact with listeria can prove life-threatening.
People with serious chronic health issues—Cancer, HIV, serious cases of diabetes…pretty much any disease that affects the immune system can increase the odds of listerosis.
7 Ways to Keep Listeria Out of Your Kitchen
As with most food-borne illnesses, prevention is the key to fighting listerosis. So how can you keep your family safe from the bacteria? How can you keep your kitchen listeria-free? Here are a few tips to ward off the bacteria.
Keep refrigerated foods cold. Check refrigerator and freezer temperatures. Freezers should be set at 0 degrees or less. Refrigerators need to be at a minimum of 40.
Wash your hands often. Washing hands is just a good habit to practice, as it prevents all sorts of illnesses, including the common cold. And since you can transfer the bacteria by touching an infected surface, washing your hands can prevent listerosis as well.
Clean counters and other kitchen surfaces. Don’t let listeria live on your counters. If you (or your food) touch the countertops, the bacteria can transfer.
Rinse/scrub produce. Fruit and veggies aren’t safe from the bacteria. Rinse veggies and dry them thoroughly. Have fruit with a hard shell? Scrub it well.
Eat prepared foods quickly. Opened a pack of lunch meat? Eat it in 3-5 days. Used some of the hot dogs but not all of them? Throw them out after a week.
Stay away from unpasteurized milk. Also avoid foods with unpasteurized milk. Trust the pasteurization process!
Don’t store food in large containers. Doing so causes foods to cool unevenly. Instead, divide food into shallow containers to promote even cooling.
What are you doing to prevent listeria from thriving in your kitchen? Take the bacteria seriously and you can avoid the risks it presents.
Community Food Bank’s mission is to provide food, nutritional education and advocacy for our neighbors in need within San Benito County.