It seems to be in the news every single week. From onions to peaches and now ice cream, listeria is a bacteria that's always making headlines. Unlike bacteria such as salmonella, it doesn't just favor just one category of food.

So what exactly is listeria and how can you stay safe?

What Is Listeria?

Listeria monocytogenes is a type of bacteria that causes food-borne illnesses. While pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems are more susceptible to a listeriosis infection, it can impact anyone. By eating food contaminated with listeria, you run the risk of nausea, vomiting, fever and chills. For moms-to-be, this bacteria can cause miscarriage and stillbirth.

Additionally, it can take up to 30 days for symptoms to surface, leaving many folks wondering why they're sick in the first place. Here's what you need to know about this problematic pathogen.

Why Does Listeria Seem to Impact Everything?

While this bacteria is most prevalently found in deli meats and unpasteurized products, it can also contaminate fruits, vegetables, seafood, chicken and eggs. How, you may ask? Listeria loves moist environments. Similar to mold, it can survive in cold temperatures and it loves humidity. This makes the fridge a wonderful place for it to grow.

Moreover, when you consider the products that it infects, it's really no surprise that it survives and makes it into our mouths. Heat kills this bacteria, but almost everything listeria impacts is served uncooked and cold. Thankfully, there are simple steps for keeping this bug at bay.

How to Stay Listeria-Free

While you can never fully prevent a bacterial infection, you can cut down your chances of being impacted. Food handling is key in this instance.

First and foremost, always keep your fridge temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. This will help to slow the growth of any Listeria that's present. Also, remember to never keep food out for more than two hours at room temperature.

Wash Food
Photo by Manki Kim on Unsplash
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Second, make a habit of thoroughly washing your fruits and vegetables before eating them. This includes "pre-washed" options that you buy at the grocery store.

Third, always wash your hands before handling foods and clean up spills as they occur. In addition, make a point to wash your hands after handling pet foods and wash their food containers as well. For meats and eggs, make sure to cook these items thoroughly. Furthermore, pregnant women should avoid unpasteurized products and foods that are more susceptible to becoming infected with this bacteria.

Finally, always stay up-to-date on food recalls. Since this is a bacteria that impacts a lot of food products, you never want to assume that something is safe. Updates on current recalls can be found on the FDA's website.

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