Listeria, or Listeriosis, is a serious infection that can result from eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria Monocytogenes. Listeria is commonly spread through improper food preparation, consumption and storage. It is particularly dangerous for those with a weakened immune system, women who are pregnant, newborns and the elderly.
How Common is Listeria?
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were 1,651 reported cases of listeriosis between 2009 and 2011. The case fatality rate was 21 percent. Cases of listeria were much higher for adults aged 65 and older and pregnant women. Many of the reported outbreaks affected people in multiple states. For example, twelve listeriosis outbreaks combined to affect 224 patients in 38 states. Five of the largest and most recent outbreaks resulted from soft cheeses made from pasteurized milk that was contaminated.
Listeria may result in diarrhea and other gastrointestinal symptoms. It commonly results in fever and muscle ache as well. Among pregnant women, an infection can lead to a miscarriage, premature delivery or stillbirth. Those who have contracted listeriosis may also experience additional symptoms such as balance issues, convulsions, stiff neck, headaches and confusion.
In general, properly handling and washing food can prevent the spread of listeria. To reduce your chances of suffering from listeria, you should:
- Rinse raw produce under running tap water.
- Scrub firm produce such as melons and cucumbers with a brush.
- Separate uncooked meats from vegetables and other foods that are ready for eating.
- Wash your hands, countertops, cutting boards and knives.
- Clean up spills right away.
- Clean the inside of your refrigerator with hot water.
- Always remember to thoroughly cook meat.
- Never store foods beyond the use-by date.
Holding Negligent Parties Accountable
When restaurants and food distribution companies negligently handle their products, it can affect tens, hundreds and even thousands of people. Tragically, large outbreaks could even result in fatalities. Anyone who has lost a loved one as the result of listeria, or who has suffered an illness in a listeria outbreak, should research his or her legal rights and options. It is possible to hold negligent parties accountable for their negligence. If you have been sickened as a result of consuming contaminated food, please ensure that the product is isolated and preserved for testing in a laboratory. It is also important that you report your illness to the local health care agency and contact an experienced food poisoning attorney to better understand your legal rights and options.