How To Reduce Your Risk Of Getting Listeriosis – Plus A Downloadable List Of All The Products That Have Been Recalled
Since January 2017, 948 cases of Listeriosis have been reported, 180 of those resulting in death, 40% of which have been babies younger than a month old. This puts those younger than 4 weeks old at the highest risk. Pregnant women, the elderly, as well as those with weakened immune systems are also high risk.
Gauteng (59%), Western Cape (12%) and KwaZulu-Natal (7%) have the most reported cases of outbreak, according to Times Live.
The symptoms first appear as flu-like or like a stomach bug and the infection can develop between 3 and 70 days of consuming food contaminated with Listeria. This is why it’s so dangerous, people assume they have the flu or tummy bug and try to wait it out. This is what a 61-year-old healthy grandmother, Glenda Warmback, did when she developed symptoms of a “tummy bug” on the 22nd of December. 3 days later, on Christmas morning, she died of acute Listeriosis, reports Times Live.
The family believes she contracted it from a national chain they ate a meal at. But because the infection can begin anywhere between day 3 and day 70, it’s nearly impossible to pinpoint where the contraction occurred.
Below are tips on how you can reduce your chances of Listeriosis in your own kitchen, but remember that when you eat a meal out, whether it is at a restaurant or a friend, you have no idea how the meal has been prepared; from the ingredients they are using and their hygiene practices to their cooking process, as demonstrated in the case above. So be aware: being conscious in your own kitchen does not make you invincible.
1. Open The Fridge
Start by taking a good look inside your fridge. You want to get rid of any processed meats, those ready-to-eat cold meats and even unpasteurized dairy products. Think polony, viennas, sausages, cold meats like ham and even those fancy salami sticks and chorizo from Woolies that might be hiding away in your pantry.
Download the full list of the products that have been recalled from Woolworth’s, Pick n Pay and other stores here.
2. Disposing Of Hazardous Waste
If you find any of the recalled items in your kitchen, do not throw them in the bin. Once you throw your rubbish away, you don’t know where it ends up or what happens to it. Throwing the products away does not get rid of the bacteria, it simply puts it in another location.
Waste pickers, of which there are 60 000 to 90 000 in South Africa, are at an increased risk if contaminated items are mixed with general refuse, says Times Live.
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Return any products on the recalled list back to the shop where you bought them and you will get a full refund. These shops, in partnership with the Department of Health, will then properly dispose of these products. Think of hazardous waste. Yes, polony and other processed meats are being destroyed in the same manner.
3. Beat The Biofilm
The Listeria bacterium can put up a resistance against your cleaning attempts. “They form a “biofilm” over themselves and stop their metabolism – effectively playing dead – until conditions are more favourable for the bacteria to thrive again”, says thesouthafrican.com
A basic scrub simply just won’t cut it. Start by washing all surfaces, fridges and machinery in your kitchen with warm water and soap.
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According to Juno Thomas, head of the Centre for Enteric Diseases at the NICD, after this, the decontamination process can be done. Dilute one teaspoon of bleach with one litre of water. Cover the surface or board with the bleach mixture and let sit for 10 minutes. For machinery, take it apart and soak it in bleach for 10 minutes (take apart your machinery and clean it every time you use it, don’t just wipe it). You need to decontaminate regularly, especially your fridge and kitchen surfaces.
4. Clean Up Quickly
Although a fridge may not seem like an optimal breeding ground for bacteria (they multiply best between 30 and 37 degrees), they can still multiply at fridge temperatures. Spilling something in the fridge might not seem like a big deal but the Listeria bacteria is known to thrive in unclean water. So clean up quick!
When you clean up spills, use materials that can be disposed of right away such as paper towels and serviettes. Dishcloths and tea towels can potentially retain the bacterium and then contaminate other surfaces.
Related: Stop Buying Fancy Antibacterial Products, Health Experts Warn
Also, wash your dishcloths, towels and cloth grocery bags regularly with soap and hot water or in your washing machine. Think about it, when was the last time you washed your dishcloth, towels or even your grocery bags? These are breeding grounds for all kinds of bacteria, not just listeria. Gross!
5. Cook Clean
Before you handle any food, wash your hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds. Do this regularly during food preparation as well as after you’ve handled food. Cape Town folk, still remain water wise though!
Make sure the water you are using is safe and boil it as a precautionary measure. Wash all fruits and vegetables rigorously, especially those you are eating raw. In Sydney, 4 people have died after eating melon that was contaminated with Listeria, reports News24. Although the source of the South African outbreak has been said to be Enterprise foods, it is important to still be cautious of all foods.
Don’t eat food that is past its expiry date. If you’re looking at a food item, debating if you can still eat it, do this basic math: eating the R30 one-day-out-of-date chicken breast < Listeriosis. Yes, pretty compelling stuff.
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Separate your raw food from your cooked; be especially careful with raw meat, seafood and poultry.
Make sure you are not eating raw or under cooked meat. Cook your foods like eggs, poultry meat and seafood thoroughly; a minimum of 75 degrees.
6. Storage Wars
If you have any leftovers, make sure to cover them with clingwrap or foil, put food in plastic bags or in a closed, secure and clean Tupperware. Don’t leave leftover, pre-cooked or ready-to-eat meals in the fridge for too long, as the longer they are stored, the higher the chance of Listeria growing.
Sources: The South African, East Coast Radio, Times Live, EWN, News24