Working To Stop Listeria In Its Deadly Tracks

An outbreak of Listeria is a serious situation with immediate health risks to certain segments of the population. Fortunately the food industry can implement best practices to help prevent Listeria.

Who is at risk

“The disease can be fatal to unborn babies and newborns, but healthy people with strong immune systems rarely become ill from listeria infection. People who have weakened immune systems are at a higher risk of life-threatening complications.”

Listeria is widely know to wreak havoc on the health of consumers, accounting for 19% of all the deaths from food-borne infections. It is especially brutal for pregnant women, newborn babies and those with weakened immune systems. For professional food factories, the presence of the pathogen keeps professionals up at night because a potential listeria contamination will most certainly also create financial losses and endless crisis management in addition to the threat to the public at large. 

Listeria is a food-borne bacterial illness that can be very serious for expecting mothers and people with impaired immune systems. Listeria infection is most commonly contracted by eating improperly processed deli meats and unpasteurized milk products. The disease can be fatal to unborn babies and newborns, but healthy people with strong immune systems rarely become ill from listeria infection. People who have weakened immune systems are at a higher risk of life-threatening complications. Prompt antibiotic treatment can help curb the effects of listeria infection.Listeria bacteria can survive refrigeration and even freezing. That's why people who are at higher risk of serious infections should avoid eating the types of food most likely to contain listeria bacteria.  

A common bacterium found in the food processing environment, Listeria origins have been reported in the manufacture and packaging of ready-to-eat (RTE) products, meat-, fish- and poultry-industry.

Environmental and product sampling plays a significant role in identifying potential trouble areas in a food processing facility, revealing conditions that may contribute to final product contamination. Regular monitoring of the environment in and around the product handling area, can be an effective early warning system for identifying potential sources of Listeria contamination in finished product.

Listeria accounts for 19% of all the deaths from food-borne infections

Aquatiq can assist in validating, verifying and improving the company's basic requirements; usually routines related to personal hygiene, production hygiene, hygienic design and cleaning.

Stay in control with a four-step process

Aquatiq can assist in validating, verifying and improving the company's basic requirements; usually routines related to personal hygiene, production hygiene, hygienic design and cleaning.

Normally, our work follows a four-step process:

1 Planning

Review of system and results to determine which routines and areas will be given priority.

2 Validation / Verification

In-depth review of selected prerequisites, with emphasis on practical implementation.

For example, by reviewing cleaning, we observe the completion of the entire cleaning process; handover from production to cleaning, preparation, pre-rinsing, foaming, rinse off, disinfection, final rinse and dry up.

3 Training

Communication and training are essential to ensure improvement. We have extensive experience with raising competence, through meetings and with completion of courses.

4 Follow-Up

Learning requires good follow-up. We assist in building up new procedures and training to achieve a stable safe production. 

The Crisis is a fact! The products are unsafe. What are you doing?

 The goal is to: 

  1. Detect the problem quickly
  2. Eliminate the problem
  3. Secure a continuously safe production

Fortunately, most businesses seldom experience detection of Listeria or other pathogenic bacteria in their products. Many, for that reason, have little experience in handling such a situation.

The situation is serious - time is critical. 

There are immediate health risks and sales of products must in most cases stop. The extent of the situation must be mapped. The source of the problem must be eliminated. Effective handling of the event is critical, both in terms of health and costs. To recover requires competence, experience, leadership, resources and a carefully organized process.

Aquatiq® has the expertise and extensive experience, assisting companies internationally to detect Listeria and other pathogenic microorganisms in the process environment and/or the product.

With reinforcements and expertise from the different companies in the Aquatiq® Concept Group, we can assist with: 

Listeria Control Team, consisting of personnel with expertise in:

  • Management
  • Deep-Clean / reset of production facilities
  • Hygienic design evaluation and upgrade
  • Listeria and microbiology
  • Sampling

Emergency package, with everything that is required for washing and resetting of facilities within a few days:

  • Chemicals
  • Cleaning Equipment
  • Dismantling procedures
  • Sampling equipment
  • Protective Equipment
  • Procedures and procedures

Help to coordinate the crisis, by assisting the emergency preparedness team with:

  • Finding the Root Cause and sampling
  • Deep-Clean Process and resetting of the plant

Evaluation of the crisis:

  • Assist in finding root cause, advanced problem solving
  • Preparation of new sampling plans
  • Participate in the future improvement project

Symptons

If you develop a listeria infection, you may experience:

  • Fever
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea

Causes

Listeria bacteria can be found in soil, water and animal feces. Humans typically are infected by consuming:

  • Raw vegetables that have been contaminated from the soil or from contaminated manure used as fertilizer
  • Contaminated animal meat
  • Unpasteurized milk or foods made with unpasteurized milk
  • Certain processed foods — such as soft cheeses, hot dogs and deli meats that have been contaminated after processing

Symptoms during pregnancy and for newborns

During pregnancy, a listeria infection is likely to cause only mild signs and symptoms in the mother. The consequences for the baby, however, may be devastating. The baby may die unexpectedly before birth or experience a life-threatening infection within the first few days after birth.

As in adults, the signs and symptoms of a listeria infection in a newborn can be subtle, but may include:

  • Little interest in feeding
  • Irritability
  • Fever
  • Vomiting

Precautions for people particularly at risk

If you're at risk of a listeria infection — you're pregnant or you have a weak immune system — you may want to be particularly cautious about listeria. Take additional precautions with these types of foods:

  • Soft cheeses and Mexican-style cheeses. Don't eat soft cheeses such as feta, Brie, Camembert, blue cheese or Mexican-style cheeses such as queso blanco and queso fresco, unless it's clear from the packaging that the product was made using pasteurized milk.
  • Hot dogs, luncheon meats and deli meats. Avoid hot dogs, luncheon meats and deli meats, unless they're reheated until steaming hot. Keep fluid from hot dog packages away from other foods, utensils and food preparation surfaces. Wash your hands after handling hot dogs, luncheon meats or deli meats.
  • Meat spreads. Don't eat refrigerated pates or meat spreads. Canned or shelf-stable pates and meat spreads are acceptable.

If you're at risk of a listeria infection, do not eat refrigerated smoked seafood. Such products may be labeled as nova style, lox, kippered or jerky. One exception is if you're using these products in a casserole or in other cooked dish

When to see a doctor

If you've eaten a food that's been recalled because of a listeria outbreak, pay close attention to any possible signs or symptoms of illness. If you experience fever, muscle aches, nausea or diarrhea, contact your doctor. The same goes for illness after eating a potentially contaminated product, such as foods made with unpasteurized milk or poorly heated hot dogs or deli meats.

If you experience a high fever, severe headache, stiff neck, confusion or sensitivity to light, seek emergency care. These signs and symptoms may indicate bacterial meningitis, a life-threatening complication of a listeria infection.


About Aquatiq

Aquatiq® provides complete food safety solutions and expertise to the global food industry, offering a holistic approach that includes consultation, equipment and hygiene systems. Aquatiq offers food safety courses, certifications, audits as well as specialized chemistry for food processing and mechanical industries. Aquatiq does what it takes to ensure the production and distribution of safe food for companies around the world. 

Contact us for expertise on how to prevent listeria and pathogen outbreaks in food factories.