Prevent Listeria Infection This Summer

With the arrival of summer, many folks think they can keep their picnic food safe from bacteria by storing it in the refrigerator.

But they would be wrong about one bacteria.

Unlike most of its brethren, Listeria bacteria can grow in cool temperatures. Refrigerating food contaminated with this bacteria could allow the germs to multiply and spread, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The bacteria can cause a serious illness known as listeriosis, which is particularly dangerous for children, older people, pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems or chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes.

Foods in which Listeria has been found include deli meats, hot dogs, smoked seafood and store-prepared salads. The FDA advises those at greater risk for developing listeriosis to reheat these ready-to-eat foods until they are steaming hot. They should also avoid unpasteurized milk and soft cheeses.

Listeriosis has also been linked to contaminated cantaloupes. The FDA recommended washing all fruits and vegetables under running water immediately before eating, cutting or cooking them. Firm produce, in particular, should be scrubbed with a produce brush.