A recent outbreak of listeriosis in South Africa has many consumers concerned about possible food contamination and wondering what they can do to protect themselves and their families from this deadly disease.

With over 850 confirmed cases, it is believed to be the largest-ever outbreak of the bacterial disease worldwide — 42% of them in babies less than one month old — and 107 people have died. (Health24)

Now more than ever, food safety has come under the spotlight as the public begins to query the food industry’s role in preventing contaminated food from reaching store shelves.

What is Listeriosis?

According to the Centre for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC):

“Listeriosis is a serious infection usually caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes”

Individuals at risk for infection include pregnant women and their newborns, adults aged 65 or older, and people with weakened immune systems. Symptoms include fever, stiff neck, confusion, weakness, and vomiting, sometimes preceded by diarrhoea.

The bacteria, listeria, is found in found in soil, water and some animals, including poultry and cattle. It can also grow in food processing plants and contaminate a variety of food products, including:

  • Ready-to-eat deli meats and hot dogs
  • Refrigerated pâtés or meat spreads
  • Unpasteurized (raw) milk and dairy products
  • Soft cheese made with unpasteurised milk, such as Feta, Brie, Camembert
  • Refrigerated smoked seafood
  • Raw sprouts

Preventative measures for the food industry

While a lot has been done in the food industry to prevent foodborne illnesses, outbreaks such as this one need to be taken seriously to ensure that the disease can be contained. Food processing plants, supermarkets, and even restaurants need to follow government-recognised sanitation and handling practices to give consumers confidence that the food they are purchasing is safe and properly labelled.

According to Health24, special attention needs to be paid to cleaning and sanitising in food processing areas, especially of conveyor belts and equipment.

In addition, recycling and garbage disposal along with HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points) practices need to be clearly outlined and performed on a daily basis to ensure compliance with Government standards and guidelines.

Click here to read more about the importance of cleaning and disinfection for food safety

At The Specialists, cleaning for food safety and sanitation is our number one priority when working with any food manufacturing or handling organisation. For HACCP certified cleaning services, contact us for a quote.

Sources:

https://www.health24.com/News/Public-Health/how-we-can-prevent-more-listeria-deaths-20180213

https://www.foodsafety.gov/poisoning/causes/bacteriaviruses/listeria/index.html

https://www.cdc.gov/listeria/index.html