Don’t accidently invite an unwanted guest to your summer picnic or barbecue. With warmer temperatures the risk for foodborne illnesses increase, especially Listeriosis.
Listeriosis can produce flu-like symptoms and for normal healthy people is usually not much of a concern. However, it can be very dangerous for the elderly, newborns, pregnant women, or people with a weakened immune system. For pregnant women listeriosis can cause stillbirth or other problems especially in the third trimester.
The bacteria listeria monocytogenes is frequently found in the environment and can grow in a wide range of temperatures including refrigerator temperatures and up to 150° F. Heat will kill it. Thus, for the elderly, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems it is recommended they take the additional precautions below to reduce their risk.
Foods at high risk of containing listeria bacteria include:
Soft cheeses – brie, Camembert, blue-veined, feta, queso fresco, queso blanco, or queso panela made with unpasteurized milk.
Lunch and deli meat
Raw unpasteurized milk
Other sources can include ice cream, deli salads, unpasteurized juice, raw or undercooked eggs, or undercooked meat, poultry or seafood.
Recommendations for everyone to avoid Listeria:
Milk – Purchase items made with pasteurized milk, including all kinds of cheeses.
Melons – Always refrigerate cut melon right away and keep no longer than 7 days. Throw away cut melons that have been at room temperature for 4 hours or more.
Hot dogs, lunch meat, pates, and cold cuts – Use opened packages within a week and unopened packages within two weeks. Always store in the refrigerator. Sliced meats at the store should be used in 3 to 5 days. Don’t let juices from any packages contaminate other foods.
Wash hands before and after handling foods especially any raw or uncooked foods. For picnics take hand wipes to clean hands if warm water and soap are not available. Wash hands before eating.
Always wash raw vegetables and fruits thoroughly before eating.
Make sure your refrigerator maintains temperature between 34°F and 39° F.
Wash and sanitize knives, cutting boards, countertops and your sink after handling uncooked foods.
Keep uncooked meats separate from vegetables, cooked foods, and ready-to-eat foods.
Cook meats to proper temperatures. Cook eggs until the white and yolk are firm.
Additional precautions at-risk populations should take to avoid Listeria:
Sprouts – Avoid raw and lightly cooked sprouts of all kinds. If you want sprouts be sure to cook them thoroughly to kill any bacteria.
Avoid eating hot dogs, lunch meats, cold cuts, other deli meats (such as bologna), or fermented or dry sausages unless they are heated to an internal temperature of 165° F just before serving.
Avoid refrigerated pâté or meat spreads from a deli or meat counter or from the refrigerated section of a store.
Avoid refrigerated smoked seafood unless it is canned or in a cooked dish, such as a casserole.
Watch for product recalls and avoid any foods connected with recalls.
Enjoy your summer with picnics and other outdoor activities just remember to take some precautions so that foodborne illnesses will not be a part of your summer. Let’s all have a food-safe summer.
Pat Brinkman is the Family and Consumer Sciences Educator for Ohio State University Extension Fayette County.