Every year, about 500 people will die from listeria, a bacteria that has adapted to survive in cold temperatures and can affect the otherwise safe food in your fridge. While 500 is a small number, that’s 1 out of every 5 people who become infected by listeria, and the very young, elderly, pregnant, and sick are at an increased risk for listeria due to having a weakened immune system.
In fact, if you have a weakened immune system for any of those reasons, your risk for a listeria infection is so high that the CDC (as well as anyone who gives advice on what to eat when you are pregnant) recommends that you skip foods like raw milk, soft cheese, deli meats, and other ready to eat foods from the fridge.
What Is Listeria?
Listeria is a bacteria that affects raw and undercooked foods, and can contaminate ready to eat foods in the fridge, including deli meats and vegetables.
How Is Listeria Illness Prevented For People With Weakened Immune Systems?
First, try to avoid contamination at home when preparing foods, and by cleaning the fridge regularly. Also be aware of where your food comes from—certain sources of meat and dairy products may be safer than others. Keep vegetables you intend to eat raw away from all meat and dairy products.
Second, the CDC recommends pre-heating deli meat to 160 degrees before eating. (You can still eat it cold or at room temperature if you follow safe kitchen hygiene practices after pre-heating).
If you have a weakened immune system, you should avoid eating raw dairy products and consider cooking all of your food. For everyone else, this does not mean that raw milk, soft cheeses, and dairy products are bad. (Remember: pasteurization does not remove all pathogens, it simply reduces the risk of illness to several serious diseases).
Although not common, when listeria infection strikes it is very serious, and often deadly.
Listeria is an example of bacteria adapting to withstand our defenses. What steps do you take to protect your family against this increasing onslaught of superbugs?