WASHINGTON (MEDIA GENERAL) – Blue Bell, Sabra and Amy’s Kitchen have all recently recalled thousands of food products due to possible Listeria contamination. We asked the experts just why this little bacteria is uniquely worrisome.
1) Grows easily – Unlike Salmonella, which grows inside humans and animals digestive tracts, Listeria doesn’t need the human body to multiply or survive. It grows easily in the environment.
2) Hardy bacteria – Dry conditions, some heat, and even freezing temperatures don’t kill Listeria. Instead, very cold temperatures just suspend the bacteria. Once a product thaws, Listeria will grow again. Only cooking and pasteurizing can kill the bacteria.
3) It doesn’t take much – Listeria has a low infectious dose compared to other bacteria. According to the FDA, fewer than 1,000 total organisms may cause disease.
4) Targets the weak – Listeria is most harmful to the elderly, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems.
5) Hard to kill – According to Jerry Wojtala, Exec. Dir. International Food Protection Training Institute, Listeria is hard to reach in food manufacturing plants. It can hide on floor drains, and on surfaces. Any plant that uses water to clean has a period of time where Listeria can thrive.
Wojtala says some plants are able to use new dry cleaning techniques to prevent Listeria.
More Listeria facts: http://www.foodsafety.gov/poisoning/causes/bacteriaviruses/listeria/index.html