Have you noticed that cases of Listeria are increasingly being reported in the media, with several deaths reported from hospitals? Listeria Hysteria, or a growing problem? There have also been two recalls in the UK during June 2019, at the time of writing this blog, as well as the hospital cases. The hospital cases appear to be linked to cooked meat used in sandwiches served to patients in several hospitals across England. The Food Standards Agency recalls are for cheddar and a dairy dessert.
The cooked meat business has ceased production, and the sandwich manufacturer has ceased supplying hospitals, pending investigation. Could your business withstand an enforced shut down?
Listeria isn’t dangerous, is it?
Listeria is a bacterium which can cause illness in healthy individuals, but the symptoms are typically mild. It can cause a form of gastroenteritis which has an incubation period of 2-3 days and is self-regulating.
The more severe form of listeriosis has a mortality of up to 50% and an incubation period of 3 days to 3 months. This infection is thought to be via the bloodstream and affects those who are already immuno-suppressed (through illness or medication), the elderly, children and pregnant women.
Where can I find it?
Ready to eat foods are most likely to be a vehicle for Listeria infection, as the bacterium is easily killed at 70C for 2 minutes. Foods affected include raw vegetables, soft cheeses and pate, raw milk and meat. Listeria is also widely distributed in the environment, so in production areas of ready to eat food, the floors and drains will be swabbed for Listeria, as they are potential sources. If you want to read more about microbiology plans, click here.
How can I control it?
Listeria likes cold, damp areas. It can multiply at 1C to 45C, which is unusual for food borne pathogens. Good hygiene and ensuring that cooking and cooling times are adhered to is critical in controlling the cross contamination and growth of this pathogen. Fridge temperatures are also important in controlling growth. Ensuring that doors are shut, and the temperatures maintained at the correct levels is critical to ensuring that Listeria is not allowed to multiply to unacceptable levels.
There are information sheets about a number of food safety hazards, including Listeria monocytogenes here.
Were you aware of the hazard associated with Listeria monocytogenes? Are you monitoring your fridges and cooking temperatures, as well as ensuring that food is cooled quickly? Check your potential cross contamination too, from raw to cooked food. Don’t forget to document your checks.
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