We have been seeing a number of articles and press statements from suppliers and retailers recalling some of their products due to the listeria outbreak in South Africa. This has not only sparked conversation around the health and safety of certain foods but the reputation of brands that promise high quality products at a high price.
Listeriosis is a serious, but preventable and treatable disease caused by the bacterium, Listeria monocytogenes, which is found in soil, water, vegetation and some animal faeces. Animal products, including meat and dairy; seafood; and fresh produce, such as fruits and vegetables, can all be contaminated.
“Infants are often a high target of this bacteria,” said Christian Lindmeier, spokesperson for the World Health Organization (WHO), adding that “newborns are about 40 per cent of the infected people.”
Having a three-week incubation period makes it difficult to establish the source and thus, tough to prevent.
“You wouldn’t know what you ate three weeks ago – maybe the one particular food that made you sick three or four weeks later – this is the big challenge we face in this situation,” the spokesperson elaborated.
South Africans are called upon to practice WHO’s ‘Five Keys to Safer Food’ programme that include washing hands before and often during food preparation; separating raw meat, poultry and seafood from other foods; and cooking foods thoroughly, especially meat, poultry, eggs and seafood.
Although this breakout is in South Africa and our Government has put certain measures in place in order to avoid high risk products into the country we can never be too safe. Below a few tips that can help lower the risk of being contamnated.
1. Avoid High Risk Foods
In order to lower your risk it makes sense to avoid foods that are considered high risk and have potential to be contaminated. Examples of foods like that are soft cheeses, cold meats and smoked fish products.
2. Clean your fridge often
Most of us put our food in the fridge with the hopes of keeping it fresh because bacteria normally can't survive for long in the fridge. However listeria monocytogenes can survive and even thrive in the fridge. This is why it's important that you clean your fride often and drop the temperatures. Keeping foods separate is also a good way to avoid the bacteria contaminating other foods and spreading.
3. Wash Up
Make sure you wash your hands, cutting boards and knives before and after handling food. ince fruit and vegetables can also be contaminated, make sure you wash them thoroughly before eating.