You’re likely familiar with Salmonella and E. coli, but there’s one more foodborne illness that may be hiding in your kitchen… Listeria.
Listeria is an infection typically caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. It is associated with diarrhea and other gastrointestinal symptoms, fever, and muscle aches.
Listeria is the third leading cause of death from food poisoning (after Salmonella and Toxoplasma gondii), and it primarily affects newborns, pregnant women, adults with weakened immune systems, and the elderly.
Unlike a lot of germs, Listeria loves the cold. This fact makes ready-to-eat meats, unpasteurized milk and dairy products, refrigerated smoked seafood, and raw sprouts especially susceptible to infection.
Recent Recalls of Waffles and Ice Cream
Kellogg Company recently issued a voluntary recall of approximately 10,000 cases of its Eggo Nutri-Grain Whole Wheat Waffles due to potential contamination from Listeria monocytogenes, which was found during routine testing. The recalled waffles have “Best-If-Used-By” dates of November 21-22, 2017.
Blue Bell Ice Cream also has issued a voluntary recall of select products made with a chocolate chip cookie dough ingredient that may have come in contact with Listeria monocytogenes.
The recalled products were distributed in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.
In 2015, Blue Bell recalled all of its ice cream products after Listeria was found in its chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream. According to an update from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10 patients from four states were infected, with three deaths in Kansas.
Reducing Your Risk of Listeria at Home
Fortunately, there are preventive steps you can take to help protect your family from Listeria and other nasty foodborne pathogens. The FDA recommends taking the following steps to avoid Listeria risks:
Mix Your Own
Combine one teaspoon of bleach with one quart of water. Wipe down the surface and let it stand for 10 minutes. Then rinse with clean water. Let the surface air dry or pat it down with clean paper towels.
- Clean and sanitize your refrigerator and countertops regularly.
- Wash all fruits and vegetables before eating, even if you plan to peel the produce first.
- Pre-cooked, ready-to-eat foods should be consumed as soon as possible.
- Always keep refrigerated foods at the proper temperature (40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower).
- Throw leftovers away after three days.
- Don’t let foods leak juices onto other foods. If you have a leak or spill in the refrigerator, use paper towels to absorb juices and then clean and sanitize.