Focus has been placed on a germ known as listeria owing to recalls of assorted foods and different brands of ice cream over the past few years.
Contamination is actually higher for foods after they’ve arrived at supermarkets and other food stores. One item at particular risk is store-sliced deli meat.
One study that tested samples over 6 months in the deli departments of chain supermarkets in three states discovered listeria in almost 10 percent of samples.
Though surfaces that come into contact with food are thoroughly cleaned, listeria can still be transferred accidentally from moist areas where it hides. Listeria, unlike other types of bacteria, it can live and grow at some refrigerator temperatures.
Those at High Risk
Listeria is a type of bacteria that can cause listeriosis, a serious food-borne infection. An estimated 1,600 Americans get listeriosis yearly, and about 260 die. The infection is most likely to sicken pregnant women and their newborns. Also, those at risk of infection are adults 65 or older, and people with weakened immune systems, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Healthy people who consume contaminated food may cause typical food poisoning symptoms that you’ll recover from. But symptoms of listeriosis include upset stomach, diarrhea, fever, aches and chills, and can take days or even weeks to appear after infection.
Listeriosis can cause miscarriage, illness, premature labor or even death in newborn.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends that people vulnerable to the infection should avoid eating sliced-at-the-store meats or heat them to 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
There are also everyday precautions that everyone should take for deli meat and other foods:
- Clean your fridge with hot water and liquid soap regularly. Clean up spills immediately.
- Always store uncooked meat away from all other foods.
- Keep your refrigerator at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower and the freezer at 0 degrees or lower.
- Eat precooked or ready-to-eat food as soon as possible. You can keep factory-sealed pre-packaged deli meat unopened for a maximum of 2 weeks, but don’t keep opened packages and any deli-sliced meat for more than 3 to 5 days.
- Thoroughly rinse all raw produce, even foods you will peel before eating, cutting or cooking. Use a produce brush to scrub firm produce.
- Washing hands, knives, countertops and cutting boards after handling and preparing uncooked foods.
- Cook meat thoroughly, using a cooking thermometer to ensure it is properly cooked.
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