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Tips To Prevent Listeria
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Tips to Prevent Listeria

Once again the news is full of warnings about food that has been contaminated, this time by Listeria. Listeria has been around forever it seems and is only one organism that can make you ill from food. As with most other organisms, Listeria tends to affect mostly those that are more vulnerable: pregnant, aged, very young, and those with immunological problems and coexisting diseases. Listeria can live for quite a long time on an inanimate object. The challenging thing with listeria is the incubation time. Once eaten, listeria usually waits about three weeks to make a person ill. Trying to track down what caused the illness after that long of a time span is a true challenge.

Listeria is a bacteria that lives in the soil and water. It is commonly carried by animals without the animal appearing ill. Humans get listeria by eating a product that is contaminated by listeria, as in the recent cantaloupe consumption that is in the news.  Listeria can contaminate hotdogs, lunch meats, cheeses, seafood, and raw milk. Listeria can even grow while being refrigerated. In the case of lunch meats and cheeses, listeria can contaminate the products after they have been cooked. This is not the usual case of events; however, it can happen.

The symptoms of listeria include diarrhea, vomiting, fever, muscle aches, flu like symptoms, stiff neck, headache, confusion, loss of balance, and even seizures. The wide range of symptoms, plus the incubation time of three weeks makes it very difficult to track down the cause of the illness and where it was found. Some of the symptoms suggest neurological disorders and flu, whereas others suggest intestinal origin. This can be very confusing to physicians. Some of the tests used to see if the cause of the infection or symptoms that are neurological can find a widespread listeria infection.

The treatment for listeria is a round of antibiotics and other drugs that may be useful to help with the symptoms of the infection. Rarely, listeria can cause death in the person that has the bacteria.

Prevention of listeria is quite simple:

  • Wash all fruit with soap and water prior to any cutting or preparation
  • Wash all surfaces the fruit touched with soap and water
  • Wash the countertop with soap and water
  • Heat kills this organism at 161 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 seconds

Listeria is common in the environment in the water and soil. It is important to be aware of recalled foods and items. Proper preparation of raw foods and cooked foods can prevent foodborne illness. Listeria is a hearty bacteria that can be killed quite easily. Before cutting fruit, always wash with soap and water. An easy method of washing fruit is filling up the sink with soap water and swirling the fruit around in the water, followed by a good rinse. Pay attention to what was eaten when you do become ill so that it is easier to track down the cause of the illness. Seek medical care if you are ill after eating recalled items, even if the preparation was careful. Wash all items that come in contact with unwashed food and keep preparation surfaces separated.  Cook food thoroughly and stay well.


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