Listeria is in the news again. At least 16 people became sick after eating sliced meat or cheese
from a deli. People in 6 states, including 2 people from Illinois,
were affected. Sick people were between
38 and 72 years old, and 62% were men. There are probably more cases than those
16 since an infection of Listeria usually has mild symptoms and lasts only a
few days. However, if the Listeria
spreads within the body, or the person
who is sick is at high risk of foodborne illness, Listeria can be deadly. Thirteen
people were hospitalized, and one of the
16 people infected in this outbreak died.
Another woman had a miscarriage.
Most bacteria will not grow in the
refrigerator, but Listeria will. Be sure to buy only the amount of deli meat
you can use in two weeks or less. And think
about how many times that roll of deli meat was out of the refrigerator into
the danger zone, and then back into the refrigerator and out in the danger zone
again. Refrigeration does not kill
bacteria, just keeps most of them from growing.
Bacteria on the food when it goes in the refrigerator can just keep
growing when they warm up.
Listeria can live on surfaces as
well as in food. This outbreak may have
been due to Listeria in contaminated food spreading to slicers and/or counter
surfaces. It is important to clean and sanitize those areas even if just a few
slices were cut.
Of course, clean hands are very important. If you cover those clean hands with gloves, be sure the gloves stay
clean. It’s easy to just quickly grab
something you forgot, or to touch a surface such as your phone or your glasses,
forgetting that those “clean” gloves are now contaminated and need to be