Listeria monocytogenes is a microorganism that can contaminate food products and may cause an infection called listeriosis. Listeria bacteria are common in the environment and may contaminate many different types of foods from the farm to food processing to the retail market.
While this organism has little impact on healthy people, more severe illness may occur in immuno-compromised individuals, pregnant women and their babies, young children, cancer patients, AIDS patients and the elderly. In these people, listeriosis can be severe.
Listeria is not a new microorganism, however changes in the way we store, handle and consume food means that it is now more widely transmitted by food. Recent research indicates that the highest risk foods are ready-to-eat foods and those stored at refrigeration temperature for a long period, thereby enabling Listeria to grow. While preventing contamination is important in all areas of food production, special precautions must be taken after foods have been processed, during packaging and at all stages where food is handled and stored before consumption.
Technical information on Listeria and other agents of foodbourne illness