Recent large food recalls in the U.S. have forced consumers to throw away hummus and ice cream that may be contaminated with the potentially deadly bacteria — listeria.
Tainted Blue Bell ice cream products are linked to eight listeria illnesses in Kansas and Texas; three of those who contracted the illness have died. Blue Bell has temporarily closed its facility in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, and shut down a production line at its facility in Brenham, Texas.
Sabra Dipping Co. announced a recall this past week of 30,000 cases of its Classic Hummus due to possible listeria contamination, though no illnesses have been linked to that recall.
What is Listeria?Listeria is a hardy bacteria found in soil and water that can be carried by animals. It is often found in processed meats (like lunch meats) because it can contaminate a processing facility and stay there for a long period of time, and it can grow in the cold temperature of a refrigerator. It is also commonly found in unpasteurized cheeses and unpasteurized milk, and it is sometimes found in other foods as well — listeria in cantaloupes was linked to 30 deaths in a 2011 outbreak.
What are the consequences after contracting the bacteria?
The bacteria cause fever, muscle aches, gastrointestinal symptoms and even death.
Who are at risk?
Listeria generally only affects the elderly, people with compromised immune systems and pregnant women. It can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature labor, and serious illness or death in newborn babies. Healthy, younger adults and most children can usually consume listeria with no ill effects or mild illness.
How Can I Protect Against Listeria?
Throw away the food if you learn it has been recalled. Always clean surfaces that come into contact with food with hot, soapy water. With fruit, scrubbing is never a bad idea, but it may not rid produce of all contaminants. In the case of the cantaloupe, the listeria likely hid on the fruit’s thick, rough skin. Health officials think people may have been sickened when people cut into their cantaloupes, bringing listeria on the outside of the fruit to the inside.
The government says the listeria bacteria can be killed by heating food to 165 degrees Fahrenheit or until it is steaming hot just before serving it.
Why is Listeria so Deadly?
Listeria is less well-known than other pathogens like salmonella and E. coli, which cause many more illnesses in tainted food every year. But one in five people who get sick from listeria can die. The people who get sick from listeria are often already weaker and more vulnerable to disease.
Source: Business Insider