Frequently Asked Questions: Listeria and Food Handlers

Follow workplace hygiene proceduresFood-handling staff must have knowledge and understanding of Listeria monocytogenes:  a type of listeria bacteria that can cause a serious illness called listeriosis in some people.

What causes listeria infections?

The major cause of listeria infection is through the consumption of contaminated food. Listeriosis is uncommon in healthy people. However, it can be dangerous for people at high risk.

Who is at risk?

The following groups are at high risk of listeriosis from consumption of high risk foods:

  • Older people (generally considered to be persons over 65 years)

  • Pregnant women, their unborn and newborn children

  • People of all ages whose immune systems have been weakened by disease or illness, for example: cancer, leukaemia, AIDS, diabetes, liver or kidney disease

  • Anyone on medication that can suppress the immune system, for example: prednisone or cortisone, including organ transplant patients

What foods are considered safe?

Foods that are generally considered to be safe from listeria contamination include:

  • Freshly cooked foods

  • Hard cheeses

  • Fresh pasteurised milk and milk products

  • UHT milk

  • Yoghurt

  • Freshly washed fruit and vegetables

  • Canned foods

How can food be prepared safely?

  • Conventional cooking destroys listeria. Freshly cooked food is the safest. Hot food should be thoroughly cooked and kept above 60°C

  • Refrigeration does not stop the growth of listeria. Listeria is one of the few bacteria that will grow in refrigerated foods. High risk foods that have been prepared and then stored for more than 12 hours should not be eaten by at‐risk persons

  • Raw fruits and vegetables should be thoroughly washed before eating

  • Uncooked meats should be kept covered and separate from cooked food and ready‐to‐eat food

  • Knives and cutting boards used to prepare uncooked foods should not be used to prepare cooked or ready‐to‐eat food

Always maintain good food and personal hygiene practices when preparing or handling food.