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Making Sense of Listeria

Listeria monocytogenes (ABC News)

Listeria monocytogenes (ABC News)

The Centers for Disease Control estimates “approximately 1600 illnesses and 260 deaths due to listeriosis [infection caused by listeria] occur annually in the United States.” Even though responsible for fewer illnesses than other pathogens that are out there, listeria’s relatively high mortality rate (especially for certain segments of the population) naturally resonates with both consumers and food producers as a focus for concern. This has especially been the case with numerous high-profile listeria cases making headlines in the past several months.

Consumers may be surprised to find out that, opposed to being some isolated super-bug, “Listeria monocytogenes is commonly found in soil and water. Animals can carry the bacterium without appearing ill and can contaminate foods of animal origin, such as meats and dairy products.” Beyond that, food processors, understanding the threat that listeria presents, are especially concerned with the fact that: “When Listeria bacteria get into a food processing factory, they can live there for years, sometimes contaminating food products.”

So what is to be done to combat listeria?   Consumers can check out information on prevention from the CDC here and information from the FDA on proper handling of ready-to-eat, refrigerated foods here. The continuing presence of listeria in the headlines will no doubt also give pause for many food processors to review internal practices/standards, and review local, state, and federal resources to address the issue. Fortunately, risks can be minimized by utilizing programs and products that target some of the following areas: cleaning and sampling; ensuring proper temperatures when processing and handling food; and separating foods and parts of the production/preparation process to avoid cross-contamination.

To assist producers find products that can be of use, Nelson-Jameson has compiled a collection of products, including testing/sampling supplies, color-coded products, and numerous other offerings to both test for and prevent listeria concerns. You can check out these products here.

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