Tips for Avoiding Food Contamination

Consumption of food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes can cause listeriosis, an uncommon but potentially fatal disease. Healthy people rarely contract listeriosis. Listeriosis can cause high fever, severe headache, neck stiffness, and nausea. Listeriosis can also cause miscarriages and stillbirths, as well as serious and sometimes fatal infections in those with weak immune systems--infants, the frail or elderly, and persons with chronic disease, with HIV infection, or taking chemotherapy.

People at risk for listeriosis and their family members or individuals preparing food for them should:

  • Reheat until steaming hot the following types of ready-to-eat foods:
    • hot dogs, luncheon meats, cold cuts, fermented and dry sausage, and other deli-style meat and poultry products. Thoroughly reheating food can help kill any bacteria that might be present. If you cannot reheat these foods, do not eat them.
  • Wash hands with hot, soapy water after handling these types of ready-to-eat foods. (Wash for at least 20 seconds.) Also wash cutting boards, dishes, and utensils. Thorough washing helps eliminate any bacteria that might get on your hands or other surfaces from food before it is reheated.
  • Do not eat soft cheeses such as feta, Brie, Camembert, blue-veined or Mexican-style cheese. You can eat hard cheeses, processed cheeses, cream cheese, cottage cheese, and yogurt.
  • Do not drink raw, unpasteurized milk or eat foods made from it, such as unpasteurized cheese.
  • Observe all expiration dates for perishable items that are precooked or ready-to-eat.

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Portions of the above information was provided with the kind permission of the Food Safety and Inspection Service United States Department of Agriculture, http://www.fsis.usda.gov)


Last Editorial Review: 7/23/2002