Spotlight on listeria

Listeria monocytogenes is a bacterium that can be found in some foodstuffs. Most of us have heard of it, but do you know where it is most commonly found?

Pâté, butter, soft cheeses and soft blue cheeses, cooked sliced meats, smoked salmon and pre-packaged sandwiches have all been found to contain traces of listeria.

Most people who find themselves infected having eaten foods containing listeria suffer from flu-like symptoms, vomiting and diarrhoea that disappear after a few days. In some people, particularly those who are vulnerable to infection (the elderly, pregnant women and infants under one month of age etc.) the infection can spread into the blood stream and cause severe illness.

Good food hygiene is essential in the prevention of contamination:

  • Food storage temperatures should be monitored and should not rise above 5°C
  • Food should be cooked thoroughly
  • Storage instructions on food labels should be followed to the letter
  • Foods likely to carry the bacteria should not be consumed after their use-by date

Food safety training can provide the information that is essential if a business is to ensure good food hygiene practices, and any employee handling food should receive the appropriate training and be aware of the risks involved.