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article imageOp-Ed: How serious is a food recall due to Listeria contamination?

By Karen Graham     Apr 24, 2016 in Food
The recent recall notices issued for frozen vegetables and frozen fruit blend in Canada and the U.S. are just one of a number of tools the CFIA and FDA/FSIS uses to warn the public about possible bacterial contamination of food products.
This Digital Journal writer believes the seriousness of a food product recall cannot be taken lightly, especially when it comes to Listeria monocytogenes.
Listeria monocytogenes is an interesting pathogen, even though it can be deadly. It is called a facultative anaerobe because it can survive in both an oxygen environment and if oxygen is absent. This pathogen has the ability to survive at temperatures as low as 0 ┬░Celsius, so freezing a food product doesn't offer protection to the consumer.
What is Listeriosis?
L. monocytogenes can be found in the soil and in animals, such as dairy cows. Cows can carry the bacterium without appearing ill, yet their dairy products will be contaminated with the pathogen. A person who becomes ill from consuming a product contaminated with the bacterium gets a disease called Listeriosis.
Cows in the barn
Dairy cattle in their stanchions
Stephanie Dearing
There are, on average, 1,600 confirmed cases of Listeriosis annually in the United States, with 260 deaths attributed to the pathogen. This pathogen is especially dangerous to pregnant women, the elderly and those with impaired immune systems. This is why food recalls always warn consumers about the elevated risks.
From 2004 to 2011 there has been a nearly five-fold increase in the number of states reporting cases...
From 2004 to 2011 there has been a nearly five-fold increase in the number of states reporting cases to the Listeria Initiative.
Why pregnant women? Listeria meningitis is the third most common cause of death in newborns in the U.S. The CDC says that pregnant women are 10 times more likely than the general population to get a Listeria infection. infection during pregnancy can cause fetal loss (miscarriage or stillbirth), preterm labor, and illness or death in newborn infants.
Older adults, age 65 or older, make up 56 percent of all Listeriosis infections. They are about four times more likely to get an infection than the general population. People with weakened immune systems because of illnesses such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, immunosuppressive therapies such as steroids, chemotherapy, radiation, or other diseases such as liver or kidney disease, diabetes, or alcoholism are at much greater risk of getting Listeriosis.
According to the CDC  almost 48 million people will come down with a food-borne illness this year.
According to the CDC, almost 48 million people will come down with a food-borne illness this year.
Reducing the risk of infection
The CDC and CFIA both recommend that consumers follow food safety guidelines in preparing and cooking all foods. This also includes hand washing, and as Digital Journal has reminded readers quite often, hand washing is one practice all of us need to make part of our routine every day and especially when we are in the kitchen.
It's important to remind the public that with the approach of summer, outdoor cooking and picnics will also mean we are at greater risk for foodborne illnesses. Remember what was said about Listeria growing in refrigerated foods? Those store-bought salads, lunch meats and fruits and vegetables all can be contaminated with pathogenic bacteria.
Knowing the risks and following food safety guidelines, which by the way, are nothing more than good common sense, will protect you and your family. Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. After serving a food, replace it in the refrigerator so it won't warm up to room temperature.
For every Toronto resident reporting a food-borne illness  277 cases go unreported.
For every Toronto resident reporting a food-borne illness, 277 cases go unreported.
One last thought and this is important. Don't take a food recall lightly. Recalls are for our protection and are taken very seriously by the government entities that inspect our food products. And secondly, if you should become ill after eating, report your illness. Most foodborne illnesses are under-reported in the U.S. and in Canada.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about Food recalls, Listeria monocytogenes, sampling, Fda, CFIA
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