Scientist says listeria caused by consumer mishandling; company recalls dip anyway

In response to a recent University of Wollongong study which found that 57 per cent of the pregnant Australian woman surveyed were not aware of foods they should avoid to prevent listeriosis, Food Standards Australia New Zealand’s (FSANZ) Chief Medical Advisor, Dr Bob Boyd, said,

"listeriosis is usually caused by people at risk eating food that has not been stored or handled properly once the food has been produced or cooked.

"Listeria bacteria are found widely in nature and may be present in pre-prepared uncooked foods or pre-cooked foods which have been kept for some time after they have cooled down.

"If you or anyone in your household is pregnant, immuno-compromised or elderly, it is important you reduce your risk by taking a few simple precautions. For example: by eating only freshly prepared and well-washed food, following good food hygiene practice such as washing and drying hands, by cooking foods thoroughly, and by refrigerating leftovers immediately and keeping them no more than a day. …

"I would like to remind health professionals of the dangers of Listeria and to make sure they have supplies of the FSANZ brochure on Listeria."

OzFoodNet data show that during 2006 in Australia there were eight Listeria infections in pregnant women with two deaths out of the eight babies and that there were 51 Listeria infections in the elderly or immuno-compromised with 7 deaths.

This is a serious issue, one that Christina and JLo, above, should know about, but pointing to a brochure is not enough. Information on any food safety issue needs to be rapid, reliable, relevant and repeated.

About the same time as Dr. Boyd’s comments, Coles Group Supermarkets voluntarily recalled You’ll Love Coles basil pesto dip (150g) from all Coles, Bi-Lo and Pick and Pay stores across Australia after testing by the manufacturer revealed the possible presence of Listeria monocytogenes.

Customers are encouraged to check in their homes to ensure they do not have any of the affected product. Customers should return any affected product to their nearest Coles, Bi-Lo and Pick and Pay store for a full refund.

A quick check of the CSPI outbreak database reveals that many listeria outbreaks happened at point of sale. It’s a processing issue; yes, consumer storage can contribute to the problem, bt in the absence of data — none was presented by Dr. Boyd — why taint a good message with a dubious claim about how listeria is primarily the consumer’s fault?