In March, the government announced that Ball Park Brands voluntarily recalled hot dogs because of the possibility that they may have contained the bacterium, Listeria Monocytogenes. No illnesses had been reported, but in late 1998 and early 1999, a listeriosis outbreak, also from hot dogs, killed 20 people and sickened another 100.
Although this bacteria that causes listerioses won't make most people sick, it can be dangerous to the very young, the very old, and those with weak immune systems. If you are pregnant, it can cause miscarriages and stillbirths.
So how does a person protect him or herself from listeriosis? The best method is prevention which can be done by:
- cooking foods to the proper temperature
- washing raw vegetables thoroughly before eating
- avoiding cross contamination
- using only pasteurized milk, dairy foods and juices
- cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and utensils after handling foods, especially uncooked foods
- reading and following label instructions to "keep refrigerated" and "use by" a certain date
It is recommended that those in a high risk category for listeriosis like children, pregnant women, the elderly, and individuals with compromised immune systems can decrease the risk when they:
- avoid soft cheese such as Mexican style(Queso Blanco,Queso Fresco), feta, Brie, Camembert and blue cheese.
- thoroughly heat leftover foods or ready-to-eat foods such as hot dogs before eating.
Although the risk of listeriosis associated with foods from delicatessen counters is relatively low, pregnant women and immunosuppressed persons may choose to avoid these foods or to thoroughly reheat cold cuts before eating.
For more information about food safety, call the Broward Extension Office at 954-370-3725 or contact the nationwide toll-free Meat and Poultry Hotline, operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, at: 1-800-535-4555
By: Joan Tavalaro