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12/07/18: What is listeria and why are frozen products being recalled?

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Listeria thrives in ready-to-eat foods

The Food Standards Agency has named more products that are being withdrawn from the shelves of UK supermarkets following a Europe-wide food poisoning alert.

The latest items to be recalled include Tesco’s Frozen Mixed Vegetables and Peppers, Lidl’s Green Grocer’s Carrots, Broccoli and Sweetcorn, and Sainsbury’s Mixed Vegetables.

The move comes just days after watchdogs named 43 types of frozen sweetcorn products that have been withdrawn over fears that they may be contaminated with a bacteria called listeria monocytogenes, better known as listeria. Contaminated sweetcorn has so far been linked to 47 cases of illness across Europe, with nine deaths reported.

The Daily Mail says that a total of more than 50 frozen products have now been withdrawn from supermarkets across the UK.

Consumers can return recalled products to get a refund, and stores are clearing all suspect foods from their freezer cabinets.

According to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), 11 people in the UK have been affected by listeriosis since 2015, including two people who died last year, although both had underlying health conditions.

What is listeria?
Listeria is a harmful bacteria that thrives in ready-to-eat foods that have already been cooked when purchased. It can contaminate a wide range of food, including cooked sliced meats, cured meats, smoked fish, cooked shellfish, blue veined and mould-ripened soft cheeses, pate, and pre-prepared sandwiches and salads.

Foodborne bacteria such as listeria can be spread by cross-contamination, such as when raw and cooked foods are stored together.

What is listeriosis?
Listeriosis is a rare infection caused by the bacteria listeria. Although most people recover without requiring treatment, it can cause serious problems if you have a weak immune system, or are pregnant. The people most at risk from listeriosis include those suffering from cancer, pregnant women and their unborn babies, newborn babies, and elderly people.

The most common way of getting infected is through ready-made foods, but you can also catch listeriosis from someone else who has it; for example, if you eat food they’ve handled when they haven’t washed their hands.

In most cases, listeriosis has no symptoms or just causes mild symptoms for a short period of time. These symptoms include a high temperature, aches and pains, chills, feeling sick or vomiting, and diarrhoea.

Preventative measures include washing your hands regularly with soap and water; washing fruit and vegetables before eating them; storing ready-to-eat foods as recommended by the manufacturer; and making sure all heated food is steaming hot all the way through.

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