Listeria outbreaks prompt warnings

Public health officials are encouraging consumers to take steps to reduce their risk of listeria infection after recent outbreaks of the foodborne illness.

“Listeria is a type of bacteria that can be found in food products, and can cause quite serious foodborne illness in certain populations,” said Dr. Nipunie Rajapakse, a Mayo Clinic infectious-disease specialist. “We worry about it especially in pregnant women and their newborns, people who have weakened immune systems and in the elderly.”

Listeria infection is most often associated with foods that are refrigerated for a prolonged period. “Listeria is one of the few bacteria that likes to divide at low temperatures,” Rajapakse said.

Symptoms of the infection include fever, muscle aches, nausea and diarrhea.

Simple food safety precautions, such as good hand hygiene and ensuring that food is thoroughly cooked, can help prevent infection. Don’t eat hot dogs, luncheon meats or deli meats unless they’re reheated until steaming hot. Keep fluid from hot dog packages away from other foods, utensils and food preparation surfaces. And wash your hands after handling hot dogs, luncheon meats or deli meats.

Mayo Clinic News Network