Welcome to USDAs 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 egg products.
Welcome to Food Safety at Home. Im 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 were talking about
Listeria and how to prevent listeriosis.
Hello Sherry, welcome to the show.
Thanks for inviting me.
First of all Sherry, what is
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, its 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 pregnancy.
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.
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.
Thats 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 milk.
- 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 wasnt 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. Its 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. Its 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!
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