It seems that every few weeks there’s another food recall due to concerns over listeria contamination. Hot dogs, ice cream, cantaloupes and pre-cut vegetables — most recently.
Listeriosis, the illness caused by Listeria monocytogenes, can lead to hospitalization and even death in those most vulnerable, like pregnant women and older adults — but you can prevent an infection.
Here are five things the CDC says you can do to protect yourself and your family:
1. Wash and handle food properly
- Rinse raw produce under running tap water, and scrub firm produce, such as melons and cucumbers, with a produce brush.
- Be sure to dry produce with a clean cloth or a paper towel after rinsing.
- Always separate uncooked meats and poultry from vegetables, cooked foods and ready-to-eat foods.
2. Keep a clean kitchen
- Wash hands, knives, countertops and cutting boards after handling and preparing uncooked foods.
- Unlike most germs, listeria can grow and spread in your fridge. Keep your refrigerator at 40°F or lower and the freezer at 0°F or lower to reduce the risk.
- Regularly clean the inside walls and shelves of your refrigerator with hot water and liquid soap.
- Immediately clean up all spills in your refrigerator.
3. Thoroughly cook meat and poultry
Use a meat thermometer to make sure that meat, poultry and seafood reaches a safe minimum internal temperature. Here are the guidelines from FoodSafety.gov:
4. Store foods properly
- Consume ready-to-eat foods as soon as you can, and never store them in the refrigerator beyond the use-by date.
- Divide leftovers into shallow containers. Cover with lids, plastic wrap or foil.
5. Eat safer foods
- Don’t drink raw (unpasteurized) milk or foods that have unpasteurized milk in them.
- People in higher risk groups should heat up hot dogs, cold cuts and deli meats before eating them.
A note about those most at risk…
According to the CDC, an estimated 1,600 people get sick from listeria germs annually, and 260 people die from the illness. At least 90% of those who get listeria infections are in a higher risk group.
To read more about ways to reduce your risk of listeria contamination, visit the CDC’s website.