Minimising the risks of listeria

Rockmelons laced with the dangerous listeria infection have been linked to a NSW grower.
Rockmelons laced with the dangerous listeria infection have been linked to a NSW grower.

LISTERIA: WHAT IT IS, THE RISKS, AND HOW TO AVOID IT

* Listeria is everywhere in the environment

* It's a type of bacterium that infects humans and other warm-blooded animals through contaminated food

* It's found in dirty water, irrigation water, soil and fertiliser.

* Soft cheeses such as Camembert; cold chicken and deli meats; raw seafood and cold seafood such as smoked salmon; ice cream, fresh fruit and bagged vegetables can also carry Listeria

* Infection can also occur through contact with animals and pests and insufficient cleaning of contaminated fruit and unclean hands

WHO IS SUSCEPTIBLE ... AND THE SYMPTOMS

* Pregnant women, infants, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems are most at risk

* Listeria starts with flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, muscle aches, nausea and sometimes diarrhoea

* The time from consuming the bacterium to showing the signs of illness can often be between 8 to 90 days.

* Some people end up in hospital with dehydration

HOW TO AVOID IT

* Don't buy bruised or damaged fruit, wash it before eating and refrigerate within two hours of slicing

* Avoid foods past their 'best before' or 'use by' date

* Cook foods thoroughly

* Reheat food until it is steaming hot

* Refrigerate leftovers promptly and use within 24 hours, or freeze

* Ready to eat food should never be stored in the fridge for too long as Listeria is one of the few pathogens that can grow in the refrigerator

Source: Food Authority NSW, Food Safety Information Council

Australian Associated Press