LISTERIA AND LISTERIOSIS. WHAT THEY ARE AND HOW TO FIGHT THEM
In the last month, in Spain, the listeria and listeriosis reappeared, which also caused death. But what are listeria and the disease it causes? And above all, who can be affected and how can be fought?
Food security is one of the objectives to be pursued for the humanity of the future. In fact, every year, 600 million people fall ill due to contaminated food. Of them, 400 thousand die, and 125 thousand are children (FAO and WHO data).
From this point of view, therefore, many realities are experimenting and innovating to improve the safety of the food we eat every day. And to fight listeria, which has hit hundreds of people in the last month.
It happened in Spain, where it caused the death of one man and another 150 hospitalizations only in Andalusia. However, 500 cases of infection are feared, for which a large number of inspections have been started.
What is listeria?
It is a bacterium (Listeria monocytogenes) that dies above 65°C. The problem is that nowadays, many uncooked foods are consumed, from fruit to fish and meat. So is just cooking enough to break down the listeria? Yes, but it may not be enough. An example: we prepare various portions on the same table. The listeria has a great capacity for contamination, so soon after all the portions on the table will be contaminated. We take one and put it in the oven. Once cooked, if we put it back on the same counter, the bacterium that was killed previously will return to contaminate the dish.
So beware: when you eat raw or smoked dishes, do it only in the places you trust. But we will talk about prevention later.
Who can be affected by listeriosis?
Pregnant women. In fact, when they are pregnant, women avoid raw foods also for this reason. In general, however, listeriosis affects people who are immunosuppressed, such as the elderly and children.
What are the symptoms?
Most of the time, the infection manifests itself with diarrhea, which appears within a few hours of ingesting the contaminated food. Sometimes, diarrhea comes with fever.
Paradoxically, these symptoms lead to recognizing a foodborne illness, but practically nobody undergoes the tests necessary to identify the cause. In patients most at risk, however, fever and incontinence can cause meningitis and sepsis, which are nothing but complications of infection. Finally, the treatment involves the administration of antibiotics for at least two weeks.
How to defend yourself from listeriosis and listeria
The Associazione Italiana di Dietetica e Nutrizione Clinica (Italian Association of Dietetics and Clinical Nutrition) reminds you to sanitize the places where the products and kitchen utensils (cutlery, cutting boards, plates, and containers) are kept to reduce infections. Furthermore, it is always advisable to wash your hands thoroughly after having touched fruit and vegetables.
For leftovers, it will be useful to use glass or vacuum containers (do not leave the food where it was cooked), while the meat should be eaten within three days of purchase (unless you have a special refrigerator, those specifically designed for the hanging to mature).
The fish, instead, should be consumed within 24 hours, while to defrost the food it is advisable to use the fridge (do not let them thaw, therefore, directly at room temperature).
In the case of intoxication, it will be necessary to drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration due to vomiting, supplement with electrolytes, and avoid exaggerating with overflowing meals or heavily processed foods.
This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian)