This is a warning to all fruit and veggie enthusiasts – the packages of frozen kale, corn, peas or berries that you have in the freezer may be packed with listeria. Listeria is a name given to a group of bacteria that usually lead to serious infections.
There are many cases in which listeria have caused fatalities especially when the affected persons were old or had weakened immune system. Children are at greater risk too. About two weeks ago, CRF Frozen Foods decided to pull 15 different frozen veggie products that may contain listeria.
In addition, three days ago this food manufacturer has included all of their traditional and organic fruit and vegetable items produced in their facility in Washington in the last year. More details about this information can be found on the official FDA website.
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has announced that more than five people in different states in America have been admitted to hospital after eating these products. Unfortunately, two of these people have lost their lives even though in one of the cases it is still not clear whether listeria was the direct cause of death.
But, what exactly is listeria? Why is this group of bacteria one of the leading causes of deaths caused by foodborne infections? This is a short list of facts related to this strange disease that every person must know:
1. Listeria is a specific kind of bacteria that is able to contaminate food. People who consume contaminated food like this often develop infection known as listeriosis. This infection is clearly visible in individuals who don’t have strong immune system. In a small number of cases, listeriosis was detected in completely healthy individuals too Muscle aches, fever and diarrhea are typical symptoms of this infection.
2. It is interesting that scientists have discovered listeria in processed, cooked and raw food. In other words, frozen foods are not the only type of food that can carry listeria. These dangerous bacteria have been found in veggies, fruits, cheeses, uncooked and cooked meats. In addition, we should point out that listeria is more likely to be found in unpasteurized dairy products. Even though this bacteria is eliminated through the process of cooking and pasteurization, in prepared foods like deli meats and hotdogs, the food may get contaminated prior to packaging.
3. Another thing that makes listeria infection special is the long incubation period. The vast majority of so-called food borne ailments result in immediate reaction once the food is taken. However, fever and diarrhea triggered by listeria will appear days after the food is consumed. In some cases it takes between one and three weeks to witness the symptoms. In other cases, patients noticed the first symptoms after two months.
4. Listeria can thrive even in cold environment. Generally speaking, experts recommend keeping the fridge at about 40 F or lower while the freezer should be set at 0 F or lower in order to preserve the food and keep it safe. However, listeria is different than most foodborne bacteria and it can live and even flourish when the temperature is low This is why it is crucial to remove the foods that might be affected by listeria from your freezer even if there is nothing wrong with your freezer.
5. This group of bacteria can thrive in both water and soil. Five years ago, people have witnessed a listeria outbreak related to cantaloupes. This is the year when the CDC advised people to throw away fruits that have these bacteria because listeria is able to penetrate the fruit and washing the fruit is not helpful. There is evidence that listeria can survive in food processing plants for more than 2 years.
6. Finally, listeria is especially dangerous for four categories of people. Those who have strong immune systems usually remain unaffected by listeria. On the other hand, people who have weak immune systems like the elderly, pregnant women and babies and people who have immune issues caused by HIV and similar health problems are at risk. The CDC claims that there are 20-25 more chances for a pregnant woman to develop listeriosis compared to healthy adults.
How to Keep Your Body Safe from Listeria?
If you stick to these safety tips and suggestions, you should be able to protect yourself from listeria and other similar illnesses. First of all, you should cook raw meat carefully and completely. Next, rinse vegetables and fruits before consumption even if they are frozen. In this way you will be able to wash the bacteria even though as we have mentioned before, listeria can still be present in foods that are well-washed.
Finally, don’t drink unpasteurized dairy products. In case the FDA or some other health agency issues food recall directions on products that you use, throw these products right away. Since pregnant women and the elderly have more chances to experience the negative effects of listeria, they should stay away from deli meats, hot dogs and processed meats. The same goes for smoked seafood and unpasteurized cheese.