Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Listeria strikes in Hawke's Bay, NZ

The news service Stuff has reported that Listeria has caused one death and contributed to another between May and June this year in Hawke's Bay, New Zealand .  At this stage, two other people have been infected, but have recovered.  It is not clear where the infection came from, though there is circumstantial evidence that pre-packaged ready-to-eat meat may have been involved.

Investigation of this type of food poisoning is very difficult.  The great majority of the population will not become ill from exposure to Listera.  In the two deaths, the women were 60+ and 80+ respectively and both were apparently immunocompromised, putting them in a more susceptible group.  The infection can take up to a few weeks for symptoms to show, making it unlikely that patients can remember what they ate and even more unlikely that samples remain for testing.

Listeria is capable of growing at refrigeration temperatures, so cooked and ready-to-eat foods should be stored for only one or two days.  Of course, this poses a problem with salad vegetables, which are not going to be cooked before consumption.

The only real way to combat food borne listeriosis is to be very careful in handling foods, prevent cross contamination between raw and cooked foods, wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly and keep utensils, chopping boards and hands clean.

If you are at risk - pregnant, already unwell, immunocompromised, elderly etc. it is better to eat freshly cooked foods, pasteurised dairy products, canned foods, bread and baked goods without cream, cereals and beverages such as tea, coffee or beer, which have all been heated during production.

You can find more articles on Listeria in this blog by typing "Listeria" in the search box at the top left of this page.

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