These fruits and vegetables can cause listeria contamination

These fruits and vegetables can cause listeria contamination

Read on for more information.

A third person died in Australia after consuming rock melon that was contaminated by the listeria bacteria, Listeria monocytogenes. Already, around 15 people have fallen prey to the infectious outbreak. Now, with contaminated fruits being pulled off Singapore’s supermarket shelves, many have been left wondering what causes listeria contamination, and how they can avoid falling prey to this deadly condition. 

Listeria contaminated rock melons in Australia and Singapore 

Investigations have revealed that the first two fatalities were from New South Wales (NSW), and the third was from Victoria. All of them are now being linked to the same melon-grower from NSW. These cases have prompted the local authorities to issue warnings about the consumption of cut melons.

Vicky Sheppeard, director, Communicable Diseases, NSW said, “People vulnerable to listeriosis (e.g. pregnant women and the elderly) should discard any rock melon purchased before 1 March.”

Contaminated melons in Singapore too

Incidentally, Singapore was also importing these rock melons. But after the fatalities, the Singaporean authorities decided to stop the sale of these fruits.  

The Strait Times reports, “Two consignments of rock melons from a farm in Australia linked to a deadly listeria outbreak were imported and available for sale in Singapore from Feb 12 to March 2.”

what causes listeria contamination

Cut and unclean fruits such as rock melons is what causes listeria contamination. | Image courtesy: Pixabay

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) released a statement on Monday (March 5) on the same. They shared that Sheng Siong supermarket outlets and even various wet markets were selling these rock melons.

“There has been no further import of rock melons from the affected grower, and import has been suspended,” the AVA reportedly said. But, you should note that the authorities have not recalled all rock melons sold in the market.

The news of the fatalities and the subsequent recall of rock melons in Singapore has once again highlighted the need to better understand what causes listeria contamination. And also, how to prevent it from spreading further.

What causes listeria contamination

Listeriosis is another name for food poisoning. The Listeria monocytogenes bacterium is what causes listeria contamination. 

This infection (from soil and water) primarily affects pregnant women, the elderly and children who have poor or weak immune systems.

Here is what causes listeria contamination: 

  • Fruits and vegetables grown underground. Soil and manure used to grow vegetables and fruits can contaminate them. So be careful with such vegetables and fruits.  
  • Meats from animals. Some animals can carry the bacteria. They can further contaminate meats as well as dairy products.
  • Processed food. Be careful of processed food such as cheeses and even cold cuts. They can get contaminated after processing.
  • Raw milk. You may also have to keep an eye out for unpasteurised or raw milk. Also, watch out for food prepared from unpasteurised milk. 

Some of the common symptoms of listeria infection include fever, muscle aches, as well as nausea and/or diarrhea. If the infection spreads to the central nervous system, you may even experience headaches, stiff neck, lack of balance and flu-like symptoms. 

If you spot of these symptoms, rush to your doctor for consultation. Generally, an antibiotic can cure the infection, but that depends on the doctor’s recommendations. 

Meanwhile, here’s what you can do at home. 

  • Shop wisely. Keep poultry, meat and fish in a separate bag from the rest of your food items. And, place your food in the fridge as soon as possible. 
  • Maintain hygiene. Wash your hands before cooking and make sure to clean each ingredient properly. 
  • Store safely. Store all your cooked foods in the refrigerator (4 degrees Celsius) and in separate containers. Make sure to eat ready-to-cook foods within two hours of preparation.  
  • Throw out. If some food items are left out for too long, avoid cooking them. They may have gone bad (read rotten). 
  • Follow do nots carefully. Avoid eating processed food and drinking raw milk if you are pregnant. Also, do not refrigerate smoked seafood and avoid eating salads made in stores with meat and fish.   

Sources: WebMD, BBC, The Strait Times 

ALSO READ: 10 cancer-causing foods you probably eat everyday

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Written by

Deepshikha Punj

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