What is Listeria?
Listeria monocytogenes is a bacterium that can cause a rare but serious infection called listeriosis. Approximately 1,600 people contract this disease each year, and about 260 people die. CDC estimates that this bacterium is the third leading cause of death from foodborne illness . In February 2023, one company recalled a long list of ready-to-eat sandwiches, salads, yogurt, wraps, and related products due to potential Listeria contamination. Listeria is found in moist environments, soil, and water — and it makes its way into certain food when it is harvested, processed, prepared, packed, transported or stored.
Preventing the Spread of Listeria
In most cases, someone becomes infected with Listeria by eating contaminated food in the following categories :
- Raw meat
- Ready-to-eat processed meat such as hot dogs and deli meat (both factory-sealed packages and products sold at deli counters)
- Raw vegetables (an outbreak has been linked to raw bean sprouts)
- Refrigerated pates
- Ready-to-eat smoked seafood and raw seafood
- Prepared or stored salads, including coleslaw and fresh fruit salad
- Soft cheeses made with unpasteurized milk
- Unpasteurized milk and milk products
People can also become infected by handling contaminated food, such as contaminated pet food, or touching contaminated surfaces and utensils and then accidentally transferring the bacteria from their hands to their mouths. Regular hand hygiene and surface disinfection are important preventative measures, whether in a residential or commercial setting. Refrigerator walls and shelves should be regularly cleaned and sanitized , and spills should be taken care of right away — especially if they contain juices from meat or poultry packages. Keeping proper temperatures in the refrigerator (under 40°F / 4°C) and freezer (0°F / -18°C) will slow down bacteria growth. Since Listeria can be inside the tissue of fruits and vegetables, washing them may not remove it. Cooked produce is always safer than raw. The CDC recommends cooking meat thoroughly to protect from foodborne illness.
Get Additional Protection with Germicidal UV Disinfection
In addition to the above preventative measures, Germicidal Ultraviolet (UV-C) Disinfection (in the dosage listed below) can inactivate Listeria on equipment and surfaces. Our products use STER-L-RAY® Germicidal UV-C Lamps producing ultraviolet wavelengths at 254 nanometers, the region of germicidal effectiveness most destructive to harmful microorganisms. Restaurants, retailers, and meat processing facilities will benefit by adding chemical-free UV-C surface disinfection to their regular sanitizing procedures for refrigerated display cases, slicers, and conveyor belts. View our application-specific page on Meat Processing to see all the applications for UV-C disinfection in these establishments.
Listeria: Classification & UV-C Dose for Inactivation
|Organism:||Alternate Name:||Type:||Disease:||UV Dose*:|
|Listeria monocytogenes||Listeria||Bacterium||—||3.0 mJ/cm2|
Where is it found?
What can it infect?
How Does it Spread?
People at High Risk for Contracting an Infection
While anyone can contract Listeriosis, most people will not become seriously ill. Certain groups of people are more likely to develop sickness from Listeria:
- Pregnant women (who can pass the infection to their unborn babies)
- People 65 years and older
- Immune-compromised people
Listeria Symptoms and Complications
Listeriosis can cause a variety of symptoms, depending on the person and the part of the body affected. Most people with sickness from Listeria experience the following symptoms :
- Muscle aches
- Stiff neck
- Loss of balance
Infections during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, or life-threatening infection of the newborn. Some people, mostly those 65 years and older or those with weakened immune systems, develop severe infections of the bloodstream (causing sepsis) or brain (causing meningitis or encephalitis).
Sources on Listeria Monocytogenes
- FDA: Fresh Ideation Food Group LLC Recalls Sandwiches and Other Products Because of Possible Health Risk
- FDA: Listeria (Listeriosis)
- FDA: Get the Facts about Listeria
- CDC: Listeria – People at Risk
- CDC: Listeria – Symptoms
- CDC: Four Steps to Food Safety: Clean, Separate, Cook, Chill
- CDC: Foods That Can Cause Food Poisoning
- CDC: Fruit and Vegetable Safety
* Nominal Ultraviolet dosage necessary to inactivate better than 99% of microorganisms. See sources below.
- Sensitivity of Bacteria, Protozoa, Viruses, and Other Microorganisms to Ultraviolet Radiation. Journal of Research of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Volume 126, Article No. 126021. August 20, 2021.
Learn More & Shop Our Products to Inactivate Listeria Monocytogenes
Made in the USA from U.S. and imported parts, the UV-C Air & Surface Disinfection product lines from Atlantic Ultraviolet Corporation® are constructed of the highest quality materials and use germicidal UV-C lamps to purify air and exposed surfaces, inactivating microorganisms like Listeria monocytogenes.
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