Listeria on the Rise: How to Fight Bad Bacteria in Your Food

Listeria on the Rise: How to Fight Bad Bacteria in Your Food
Food Safety Contamination

Listeria has been contaminating various foods forever; we have yet to be able to prevent this foodborne disease-causing bacteria. Yet another recent headline about listeria outbreaks reads “CDC: 10 Listeria Illnesses Now Linked to Blue Bell Foods.”

The article goes on to say that:

“Federal health officials say they’re now aware of 10 listeria illnesses linked to ice cream and other products made by the company [Blue Bell Foods] over the last five years, including three deaths.”

The upshot of this exposé is not so much to warn the buying public about Blue Bell Foods as much as it is to raise awareness about all corporate processed foods.

The real culprits here are a variety of dairy products. Dairy foods in general are quick to spoil and very challenging to safely process and package. Compared to most other foods, the likelihood of bacterial contamination of milk products is quite high, particularly in warmer climates.

Because the USDA guidelines for sanitary dairy processing are sometimes not properly enforced, the opportunities for tainted product to be shipped to stores has significantly increased over the past many years. The example cited above regarding Blue Bell Foods is just one of many instances where the dairy processing plant got caught.

Image from: www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/specific-foods/listeria-and-food.html
Image from: www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/specific-foods/listeria-and-food.html

Were the truth to be told, there are a great number of cases where dairy processing companies were caught but not reported for substandard processing or tainted dairy. There is an even greater number of instances where the contaminated dairy products were never identified and therefore shipped to the supermarket for sale.

Related: Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Cases Grow by 12,000% in 7 Years

Listeria-related sickness can go undetected because the symptoms often resemble other illnesses.

The above referenced article went on to repeat a commonly held misconception about listeria-cause illness. As follows:

“Listeria primarily affects pregnant women and their newborns, older adults and people with immune systems weakened by cancer, cancer treatments, or other serious conditions.”

The fact is that eating listeria-contaminated food can have severe health repercussions on any age group as well as on those with healthy profiles. While their immune systems may be stronger to ward off a full-blown listeria attack, they will still suffer less symptoms, though less severe.

The following list of symptoms is representative of a typical listeria outbreak.

What are Listeria infection symptoms and signs?

  • Fever
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain and cramping
  • Back pain

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Another Case of Listeria

While this article was being written, another headline appeared as follows: “Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream Recalls All Products, Fearing Listeria Contamination”

“On Thursday, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream announced that it will voluntarily recall all of its ice creams, frozen yogurts, sorbets and ice cream sandwiches due to their possible contamination with Listeria monocytogenes.”

If every dairy producer and dairy food processor were tested regularly by the USDA for listeria contamination, the incidence of positive tests for its presence would skyrocket. For this reason, it is especially important to properly manage any and all dairy products.

Particularly during the hot summer months, and especially in the South, it is important to put all dairy products in a cooler that is kept very cold with refreeze beverage bottles. In this way, the dairy products can be kept cold during the trip home instead of sitting in a hot car unrefrigerated. The environment will therefore be less conducive for pathogenic bacteria to proliferate in transit.

However, in the case of listeria, extra precaution ought to be taken because of the following important information.

“Because Listeria survives well in cool temperatures, refrigeration does not protect against it in the way it does with other bacteria and fungi. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the bacteria is typically found in soil and water, and can survive for years in a food processing factory. It can be found on raw meat and vegetables, as well as in cooked and processed foods.”

Conclusion – How to Fight Bad Bacteria In Your Food

Perhaps the best way to eliminate pathogenic microorganisms from food sources is to thoroughly wash all food that can be washed. Appropriately diluted Lugol’s iodine is a very potent food cleansing agent and is a great way to wash all fruits and vegetables. Some people have successfully used various concentrations of vinegar, depending on the food. Or perhaps you could use this simple bacteria-killing carob tree leaves.

As for disinfecting dairy products, the challenge is obviously much greater. Boiling milk or creme before use will certainly have its beneficial effects; however, ice cream — everyone’s favorite dessert — presents a unique set of difficulties when trying to address bacterial contaminations of any kind.

Additional Sources:

CDC.gov