|Script: Let’s Talk About
Welcome to USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service “Food
Safety At Home” podcast series, featuring topics for the safe
handling, preparation and storage of meat, poultry and processed
Welcome to “Food Safety at Home.” I’m Cody Thornton with the
Food Safety and Inspection Service. With me today is Sherry
Spriggs, Technical Information Specialist from the Food Safety
Education Staff. Today we’re talking about Listeria and how to
Hello Sherry, welcome to the show.
Thanks for inviting me.
First of all Sherry, what is Listeria?
Listeria monocytogenes is a harmful bacterium that can be found
in foods such as unpasteurized milk and contaminated
ready-to-eat foods such as hot dogs and lunchmeats, and can
cause an infection called listeriosis.
That sounds serious…can anyone get listeriosis?
Yes, it’s a serious health concern. An estimated 2,500 people
become seriously ill with listeriosis each year. Of these, 500
die. Although anyone can get listeriosis, it primarily affects
persons who are at-risk….pregnant women and newborns, older
adults, and people with weakened immune systems. Healthy adults
and children can also become infected with listeriosis, but they
rarely become seriously ill.
Sherry, I remember when my wife was pregnant with our baby girl
and the doctor told us about Listeria. He said pregnant women
are about 20 times more likely than other healthy adults to get
listeriosis and about one-third of listeriosis cases happen
during pregnancy. Also, newborns rather than the pregnant women
themselves suffer the most serious effects of infection during
What are the symptoms?
Good question! A person with listeriosis can have fever, muscle
aches, and sometimes gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea or
diarrhea. If the infection spreads to the nervous system,
symptoms such as a headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of
balance, or convulsions can occur. Infected pregnant women may
experience only a mild, flu-like illness; however, infections
during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage or stillbirth,
premature delivery, or infection of the newborn.
How does Listeria get into your food?
Listeria monocytogenes is found in soil and water. Vegetables
can become contaminated from the soil or from manure used as
fertilizer. Animals can carry the bacterium without appearing
ill and can contaminate foods such as meats and dairy products.
The bacterium has also been found in raw vegetables and
unpasteurized (raw) milk, and foods made from unpasteurized
milk, as well as processed foods that have become contaminated
after processing, such hot dogs and cold cuts.
That’s really good information! How can our listeners reduce the
risk of listeriosis?
You can reduce your risk by:
- Observing use-by dates on packaged ready-to-eat foods and
consuming them as soon as possible.
- Keeping uncooked meats separate from vegetables cooked foods
and ready-to-eat foods.
- Washing your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20
seconds before and after handling food.
- Thoroughly cooking raw meats and poultry. Always use a food
thermometer to make sure they are safely cooked.
- Washing raw vegetables thoroughly before eating.
- Avoiding unpasteurized milk or foods made from unpasteurized
- Washing knives and cutting boards and other utensils in hot
soapy water after handling uncooked foods.
- Persons at higher risk for contracting listeriosis, such as
pregnant women, older adults and others with weakened immune
systems, should avoid eating ready-to-eat foods such as hot
dogs, luncheon meats, bologna and other deli meats unless they
are reheated to steaming hot or 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
For more information for persons at higher risk of contracting
listeriosis, such as pregnant women, older adults and others
with weakened immune systems, visit the FSIS Web site at
Well Sherry, you are so knowledgeable. Thank you very much for
taking time out of your day to share this information.
I have a question for you now. If I wasn’t here and you had a
food safety question, who would you call?
I would call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at
1-888-674-6854. USDA Technical Information Specialists answer
calls Monday through Friday from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm Eastern
Time in English and Spanish. It’s a great service! The
specialists are dedicated and dependable with years of superior
customer service. They helped answer my food safety questions
last Thanksgiving when I cooked dinner for 20 guests!
Thank you for that information!
Consumers can also visit us online and get their food safety
questions answered by our virtual representative, Ask Karen at
AskKaren.gov 24 hours a day! You can also chat “live” from 10:00
am to 4:00 pm. It’s a great system with tons of information!
Thank you again Sherry for joining us today. This has been very
educational. Until next time, this is Cody Thornton and Sherry
Spriggs from the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service.
Remember: Be Food Safe!
Thanks for listening
to this Food Safety At Home podcast. Let us know what you think
of this podcast by sending your comments to
July 14, 2010