Listeria information for students

Listeria fact sheet – make sure you have it right!

There is a lot going around on social media right now but make sure you get the facts straight.

What is listeriosis

Listeriosis is a serious bacterial disease caused by the bacterium(germ), Listeria monocytogenes. The bacterium is commonly found in nature in soil, water and contaminated food. Animals and food products such as vegetables can become contaminated from these sources. It is not visible to the human eye and although food may appear to be okay, it could be contaminated.  This is what makes it so difficult to believe that something could be wrong with the product – it looks fine and smells good, but it may be very dangerous. 

What are the symptoms

Anyone can get Listeriosis. However, those at high risk of severe disease are newborns, the elderly, immunocompromised individuals, pregnant women and their unborn babies; and those with underlying conditions such as HIV, diabetes, cancer, chronic liver or kidney disease.

Infection with Listeria usually results in gastro-enteritis with symptoms ranging from mild to severe. However, in persons with weak immunity, Listeriosis can lead to meningitis leading to headaches, confusion, stiff neck, loss of balance or convulsions and even septicaemia. In pregnant women, Listeriosis may results in pregnancy loss (abortion) along with meningitis of their infant.

It is diagnosed by a blood test and is treatable with antibiotics.

How can I get listeriosis

Listeriosis is usually spread through eating contaminated food products most frequently with raw or unpasteurised milk and soft cheeses, but also vegetables, processed foods, ready-to-eat meats and smoked fish products.

The Listeria bacterium can also be transmitted from a pregnant woman to her unborn baby during pregnancy or at the time of birth.

How can I protect myself

If you are pregnant or suffering from another illness avoid any of the foods:

  • Raw or unpasteurized milk, or dairy products that contain unpasteurized milk;
  • Soft cheeses (e.g. feta, goat, Brie);
  • Foods from delicatessen counters (e.g. prepared salads, cold meats) that have not been heated/reheated adequately;
  • Refrigerated pâtés
  • Processed meats like polony, viennas, cold cuts

Practice good hygiene in your kitchen at res or digs

  • As Listeria can grow at refrigerated temperatures make sure you set yours as cold as you can 4°C should be the maximum. Don’t overfill your fridge to allow if to work effectively.
  • Make sure your freezer is also working properly at -18°C and don’t overfill it.
  • Make sure you keep your fridge clean and wipe any drips from raw food immediately.
  • Always store raw foods below cooked foods to avoid any drips that can contaminate ready to eat foods.
  • Use only pasteurized dairy products;
  • Thoroughly cook raw foods from animal sources, such as beef, pork or poultry;
  • Wash your hands before preparing food, before eating and after going to the toilet – yes even YOU!
  • Do the dishes! Wash kitchen surfaces and utensils regularly, particularly after preparing raw meat, poultry and eggs
  • Wash raw vegetables and fruits thoroughly before eating.
  • Ensure you reheat food thoroughly if using a microwave– rather too hot and let it cool down than luke warm to start.

What to do about the enteprise polony recall

  • Remove all these processed cold meats from your fridge – this includes viennas, polonies and other cold cuts.
  • Clean your fridge with a diluted bleach and make sure that all surfaces that were exposed to these products are wiped down.
  • Ensure you wash your hands thoroughly after handling these products.
  • Don’t buy these products until we have been informed by the National Department of Health that the products are safe to consume.

Please also be responsible in disposing of the product. In our country we have hungry people who are living off whatever we throw away.  Be responsible and destroy the packaging and the product before you dispose of it in your dustbins.  Bury the product (only if you do not have pets) or burn it – this way we know for sure that it cannot be retrieved from a garbage bag or dump site. 

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