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Food Safety and Inspection Service
USDA, Washington

Contact:Bessie Berry (202) 720-5604

USDA Recommends Safeguards for Consumers At Increased Risk for Listeriosis

        WASHINGTON, May 25, 1999 -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture today reminded consumers who are at increased risk of illness from a foodborne bacteria called Listeria monocytogenes to take extra precautions when eating certain foods including ready-to-eat foods such as lunch meats and hot dogs.

        People who face increased risks from listeriosis are: pregnant women and newborns, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems caused by certain cancer treatments, AIDS, diabetes, and kidney disease. People who are at risk are more likely to get sick from bacteria that can be found in food and to suffer severe health problems as a result, according to Under Secretary for Food Safety Catherine Woteki.

        "If you feel you -- or someone in your family -- are at risk, we're advising that you reheat ready-to-eat foods like lunch meats, or avoid them," Dr. Woteki said.

        To help reduce the risk of illness, USDA recommends that at-risk consumers, and people who prepare their food, should:

  • Reheat until steaming hot the following types of ready-to-eat foods: hot dogs, luncheon meats, deli meats, cold cuts, fermented and dry sausage, and meat and poultry products until they are steaming hot. If you cannot reheat these foods, do not eat them.

  • Wash hands with hot, soapy water after handling these types of ready-to-eat foods. (Wash for at least 20 seconds.) Also wash cutting boards, dishes, and utensils. Thorough washing helps eliminate any bacteria that might get on your hands or other surfaces from food before its been reheated. Washing helps eliminate bacteria that might spread from food before it is reheated.

  • Don't eat soft cheeses such as feta, Brie, Camembert, blue-veined varieties, or Mexican-style cheese. At-risk consumers can eat hard cheeses, processed cheeses, cream cheese, cottage cheese, and yogurt.

  • Do not drink raw, unpasteurized milk or eat foods made from it, such as unpasteurized cheese.

  • Observe all expiration dates for perishable items that are precooked or ready-to-eat.

In addition, Bessie Berry, manager of the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline, advises all consumers to follow the four basic food safety rules that are part of the Partnership for Food Safety Education's Fight BAC!TMfood safety education program:

  • Clean: Wash hands and surfaces often with hot, soapy water. Periodically clean the refrigerator thoroughly. Wipe up spills in the refrigerator immediately. Clean surfaces with hot, soapy water, rinse and dry. Always wash hands, cutting boards, dishes, and utensils with hot, soapy water after they come in contact with raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs.

  • Separate: Don't cross-contaminate. Raw meat, poultry, and seafood can contain dangerous bacteria. As a result, keep these foods separate from vegetables, fruits, breads, and other foods that are already prepared for eating.

  • Cook: Cook to safe temperatures. If you are at risk for illness from Listeria monocytogenes, reheat packaged luncheon meats, cold cuts, and other deli meats and poultry until they are steaming hot.

  • Chill: Refrigerate or freeze perishable foods, including ready-to-eat foods, within 2 hours of purchase or preparation.

        Berry reminded consumers not to eat food that is recalled or ordered off grocery store shelves. "Consumers should return the food to the place where they bought it," Berry said.

        Consumers with questions can call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-800-535-4555. In the Washington, D.C. area, call (202) 720-3333. TTY: 1-800-256-7072.


The information contained herein has been obtained from sources that the Company believes to be reliable, however, the Company has not independently verified or confirmed the information and the recipient acknowledges that no representations or warranties are being made in connection with the use of the information.