We’ve seen Listeria and its scientific name, listeria monocytogenes, cropping up lately in the news. But what is it exactly? Who does it affect? And how can we avoid it? To help answer some of your most pressing questions about Listeria, check out the following FAQs.
What is listeria monocytogenes?
Listeria monocytogenes (pronounced lis-TIR-ee-ya mon-o-si-TAH-gin-eez), is a type of bacteria found everywhere in soil and ground water and on plants. Listeria can cause an illness called Listeriosis.
Who’s at risk for Listeriosis?
Most people are not at increased risk for Listeriosis. However, those with weakened immune systems such as children, the elderly and especially pregnant women, are considered more susceptible to Listeriosis.
Where is Listeria commonly found and under what conditions?
Listeria monocytogenes is found in soil and water. Animals can carry it without appearing ill. Unless treated during the production phase, it can contaminate foods of animal origin, such as meats and dairy products. It has been found in a variety of raw foods, such as uncooked meats and vegetables, as well as in foods that become contaminated after cooking or processing. Unpasteurized (raw) milk and cheeses and other foods made from unpasteurized milk are particularly likely to contain Listeria.
Foods most commonly associated with Listeria and support its growth include:
Dried foods do not support the growth of Listeria
Source: USDA Fact Sheet on Listeriosis
What can consumers do to reduce the risk of listeriosis?