Whole Foods announced that it would recall all of the Papillion Organic Roquefort cheese carried in its stores after the FDA discovered traces of listeria.
Keeping your kitchen clean can also help prevent foodborne illnesses like listeria. Start out by making sure that your hands, knives, countertops, and cutting surfaces are thoroughly cleaned. Listeria monocytogenes can even grow in foods that are being refrigerated, so remember to be thorough. Keep the temperature in your refrigerator no higher than 40 degrees F. Temperatures in the freezer should be zero degrees F and lower.
Making sure that spills are cleaned up can also help prevent listeria infections. Juices from uncooked meats can transmit all sorts of bacteria for weeks after they have been spilled. Be sure to clean the walls and shelves of the refrigerator with hot water and soap.
Storing foods properly can make all the difference for avoiding foodborne infections like listeria. Precooked food and ready-to-eat meals should be consumed as soon as possible, and use-by dates on all types of food packages should be respected. Hot dogs should be stored for one week after the package has been opened, and two weeks if the package is still sealed. Deli meats should be kept no longer than two weeks if they are sealed, and sliced meats should be kept for no longer than three to five days in the refrigerator.
Avoiding certain types of food can also decrease your risk of contracting listeria. Unpasteurized milk and foods containing it can transmit listeria, which is likely how it showed up in the cheese recently recalled by Whole Foods.
Other cheeses, especially soft ones, like feta, queso blanco, queso fresco, brie, Camembert, blue-veined, and panela can all transmit listeria, as many of them are created with unpasteurized milk. Over the past five years the vast majority of listeria outbreaks reported by the CDC were caused by cheeses.
Officials estimate that there are roughly 1600 illnesses and 260 deaths caused by listeriosis each year in the United States. In 2013, the average annual incidence of the disease in the U.S. was 0.26 cases per 100,000 people. Cases of listeria infections have been on the decline since the 1990s, and by 2012 the rate of infection was 42 percent lower than it was over the period between 1996 and 1998.
There were 831 outbreaks of listeria in food in 2012. The largest single listeria outbreak in the history of the U.S. occurred in 2011 and resulted in 147 illnesses, 33 deaths, and a single miscarriage. The outbreak spread across 28 states and was traced back to cantaloupes produced by a single farm.