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You may have heard of Listeria, but what is it and how do you avoid it?

Listeria monocytogenes is a bacteria that occurs naturally in the environment. Because of its prevalence in the environment food can sometimes become contaminated with Listeria and unlike many types of bacteria that cause foodborne illness, Listeria can also still grow in food stored in the fridge. 

While Listeria generally doesn't affect healthy people it can cause severe illness in pregnant women and their babies, the elderly or frail or people who have compromised immune systems. In pregnant women symptoms may appear mild or flu-like, but listeriosis can cause miscarriage, premature birth, or stillbirth.

If you are a vulnerable person there are certain foods you should avoid including:

  • cold deli meats
  • chilled paté and meat spreads
  • pre-cooked cold chicken
  • soft cheeses such as brie, camembert and ricotta
  • pre-prepared or pre-packed cold salads and pre-cut fruit
  • chilled smoked seafood,
  • raw seafood, including raw oysters
  • unpasteurised dairy products
  • soft serve ice cream.

To reduce your risk, you should:

  • reheat your leftovers until they're steaming hot
  • avoid eating food that is past its use by date
  • store your leftovers safely. If you store them in the fridge and you're at risk, make sure you eat them within 24 hours
  • wash your fruit and vegetables thoroughly
  • avoid cross contamination by using separate knives and chopping boards when preparing your food
  • wash your hands with hot soapy water before and after handling food

Find out more at www.foodstandards.gov.au/listeria.


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