Listeria Factsheet

By Linda Jackson on 05 December 2017

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) is reporting a very large outbreak of Listeriosis in South Africa. To date there have been over 550 cases reported, mostly in Gauteng. Here are some facts that you should know.


What is listeriosis?

Listeriosis is a serious infection caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium called Listeria Monocytogenes. Although there are other types of Listeria, most cases of listeriosis are caused by Listeria Monocytogenes. Listeria is found in soil and water so vegetables can become contaminated from the soil or from manure used as fertilizer and even animals can carry the bacterium without appearing ill, and can then contaminate foods of animal origin, such as meats and dairy products.


What can I do to prevent getting the illness?

  • Listeria can grow at refrigerated temperatures and so you must consume perishable and ready-to-eat foods as soon as possible and definitely by the use by date.
  • Listeria is killed by heating so make sure you thoroughly cook raw food from animal sources, such as beef, pork, or poultry.
  • Listeria occurs in soil, make sure you wash raw vegetables thoroughly before eating.
  • Keep uncooked meats separate from vegetables and from cooked foods and ready-to-eat foods.
  • Pasteurisation kills listeria so avoid unpasteurized (raw) milk or foods made from unpasteurized milk.
  • Practice proper hygiene in your kitchen by washing hands, knives, and cutting boards after handling uncooked foods.


What Foods could be at risk of Listeria?

Listeria has been found in a variety of raw foods, such as uncooked meats and unpasteurized (raw) milk or foods made from unpasteurized milk. Listeria is killed by pasteurization and cooking; however, in certain ready-to-eat foods, like hot dogs and cold cuts from the deli counter, contamination may occur after cooking but before packaging.

The foods in the chart below are being considered by The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD):


Download Listeria Factsheet 25Jan2018.pdf 


Foods most often implicated in outbreaks around the world:


The pathogen has been isolated from a very wide range of processed foods including pâtés, milk, soft cheeses, ice cream, ready-to-eat cooked and fermented meats, smoked and lightly processed fish products and other seafood. Celery, sprouts, cantaloupe have also been identified.
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