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Guess who’s coming to dinner – avoid the listeria risk at Christmas time (10 December 2018)

The Food Safety Information Council today advised people to check if any of the family or friends they are entertaining over the Christmas and summer period are at risk from the deadly Listeria food poisoning infection.

Rachelle Williams, FSIC Chair, said that recent research found that one in three Australians are either at risk of getting the potentially fatal Listeria infection themselves or live in a household with someone at risk.

‘This means it is likely that some of your Christmas guests may be at risk of Listeria infection which, although a comparatively rare form of illness, can be a very serious for:

  • pregnant women and their unborn babies
  • people who have diabetes, cancer or suppressed immune systems due to other chronic diseases such as leukaemia, HIV, diabetes, liver or kidney disease, cirrhosis or ulcerative colitis
  • older people (generally considered to be over 65 to 70 years) depending on their state of health and especially if they have an underlying health issue like those above
  • people taking a medicine that suppresses their immune system e.g. prednisone or cortisone
  • organ transplant patients.

‘If your guests are at risk of Listeria infection you will need to avoid serving or, where possible cook, the following foods:

  • Unpackaged ready to eat meats from delicatessen counters and sandwich bars; packaged, sliced ready-to-eat meats; cold cooked chicken purchased ready to eat, whole, diced or sliced and refrigerated paté or meat spreads
  • All soft, semi soft and surface ripened cheeses e.g. brie, camembert, ricotta, feta and blue (pre-packaged and delicatessen), unpasteurised dairy products (e.g. raw milk or cheeses) and soft serve ice cream
  • Pre-prepared or pre-packaged cut fruit and vegetable salads e.g. salads sold in bags or containers or from salad bars, shops or buffets, etc; pre-cut fruit and vegetables that will be eaten raw; frozen fruit or vegetables that may not be further cooked (e.g. berries, peas, sweet corn); rockmelon/cantaloupes (whole or cut); and bean or seed sprouts
  • Raw seafood (e.g. oysters, sashimi or sushi); smoked ready-to-eat seafood; ready-to-eat peeled prawns (cooked) e.g. in prawn cocktails, sandwich fillings; and prawn or seafood salads; and seafood extender.

‘Also follow these food safety tips to reduce the risk of Listeria infection as well as other forms of food poisoning:

  • Always wash your hands with soap and running water and dry thoroughly before handling food and keep food utensils and cooking areas clean
  • Unlike most other food poisoning bacteria, Listeria can grow at refrigeration temperatures, so ready to eat food or leftovers should never be stored in the fridge for more than 24 hours. Since Listeria grows slowly in the fridge, it will do so only very slowly at cold temperatures so make sure your refrigerator is keeping your food at or less than 5°C.
  • Avoid refrigerated foods that are past their ‘use by’ date
  • Refrigerate leftovers promptly and use within 24 hours or freeze
  • Always look for cooking and storage instructions on the food package label and follow them when provided.
  • Cook high risk foods such as the turkey and other poultry, minced meat, sausages, hamburgers and leftovers to 75°C
  • Cook egg dishes, such as quiche, to 72°C in the centre (or until the white is firm and the yolk thickens)
  • Cook frozen fruit and vegetables

You can test your knowledge about Listeria by taking our quiz.

For more information see our Food Safety at Christmas advice

Media contact:

Lydia Buchtmann, Food Safety Information Council, 0407 626 688 or info@foodsafety.asn.au

 

The Food Safety Information Council is a health promotion charity which aims to address the estimated 4.1 million cases of food poisoning in Australia each year that result in 31,920 hospitalisations, 86 deaths and 1 million visits to doctors.

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