Deadly Meats & Vegetables and How They Kill You

By Lee Bellinger / November 12, 2013

What You Need to Know About Listeria

And Other Foodborne Illnesses

Another produce recall is making headlines across the nation. This time it’s Kraft Mac’n’Cheese and they’re recalling because of possible metal fragments.

It’s great that we can use media to share the knowledge of a food recall. Especially if it’s alerting us to a contamination of Listeria monocytogenes or other invisible foodborne illnesses.

There’s a seemingly unending string of food contamination outbreaks these days – in spite of federal programs that have spent billions of dollars on food safety.

This isn’t just because government efficiency is collapsing under its own bureaucratic weight. Government agencies are by their core nature reactive in how they deal with situations – not proactive. This means you have to do your own thinking and planning in order to protect yourself.

Listeria is a foodborne bacterium that most commonly adversely affects people over 70, pregnant women, and people with deficient immune systems. It causes fever, muscle aches, nausea, and diarrhea. Symptoms can progress to include stiff muscles, loss of balance, confusion, and convulsions… even death.

Today, we take a look at Listeria, other foodborne illnesses, and what you can do to keep your food, and your family, safe.

Bureaucrats Blew Their Chance to

Head Off Previous Listeria Outbreak

In 2011, a food safety audit was conducted on a Colorado cantaloupe farm. They found nothing, and six days later the produce from the farm was shipped to market. Even though the inspection didn’t turn up anything at the time, the melons from the farm later tested positive for Listeria.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) determined 146 people fell ill due to the bacteria on the cantaloupes, and 30 people died.

People like you and I know that entrusting our security and our health to government bureaucrats is a losing bet. So today, I’m going to share a few basic guidelines with you that will keep you from getting sick from food borne illnesses.

These are common-sense instructions, but as indicated by the tragic statistics above, many people don’t follow these simple steps to protect themselves.

Ignoring these recommendations can end up with you spending a night curled up on the bathroom floor, miserable and sick, and can even put you in the hospital. Believe me, that’s the last place you want to be!

Common-Sense Step 1:
Wash Everything

The first step to preventing foodborne illness, including Listeria, is to wash everything

Wash your hands thoroughly before you handle food. Wash fruits and vegetables before slicing or peeling them – even if you don’t eat the rinds. Wash cutting boards and other food preparation surfaces. Rinse meats.

Proper hand washing is easy to do. Turn the water on. Get your hands wet. Add soap. Scrub your hands together for at least 20 seconds, and make sure you do a little extra scrubbing around your fingernails.

Fruits and vegetables. Don’t just rinse them. Scrub them

If you’re dealing with a delicate fruit like berries, rinse them with a produce wash like Fit. Use separate cutting boards: one for meats and one for other foods.

Many isolated cases of foodborne illnesses come from improper washing. These outbreaks can happen at home or at a restaurant.

Six Beginner’s Steps
to Safe Food Preparation and Storage

Keep your refrigerator set at 38 degrees or below

Keeping your refrigerator set at this temperature can keep most strains of bacteria from multiplying and also keeps meats and dairy products from spoiling quickly. A lot of food-handling guides recommend a temperature of at least 40 degrees or below, but Listeria will continue to multiply down to 39.2 degrees. I suggest you keep your setting a bit lower, just to be safe.

After you purchase meat or fish from the store, plan to cook it or freeze it within 72 hours

Once you’ve cooked a meal, if you have leftovers, refrigerate them immediately and use them within the next four days. Be sure to reheat your leftovers to at least 165 degrees before consuming them.

Buy a good meat thermometer

If you put a good sear on a steak, you’ll be fine even if it’s rare in the middle, but dine on under

cooked chicken or burgers and you could be in for a world of hurt. An accurate meat thermometer takes out the guesswork.

Stock up on bleach

There’s no better way to disinfect a cutting board, a sink, or a kitchen counter than washing it with a bleach solution.

Clean your sponges at least once a week

Use the microwave, dishwasher, or throw them in with a load of laundry. Sponges are bacteria farms. If you don’t sanitize them regularly, every time you wipe down a counter, you’re just spreading the bacteria around. Better yet, use paper towels to clean counters and sinks.

Treat raw meat like a bio-hazard

Why? Because until it’s properly cooked, that’s exactly what it is. Isolate raw meat from everything else you’re preparing, and clean up after spills immediately.

Follow these habits and you’ll better your chances at staying healthy next time there’s a foodborne illness outbreak.