Over the past two months, the news media has focused quite a bit on food safety and food product recalls in relation to the recent problems Blue Bell Creamery faced when most of their ice cream product line contained a significant risk of listeria contamination. In that case, it was originally believed to be a single ice cream scooping machine used only for novelty products that was responsible for the contamination. However, later safety testing revealed widespread listeria contamination in multiple production centers, and the recall was expanded from only novelty products to virtually all ice cream.
But ice cream is not the only product that can pose a serious risk for listeria, and, according to a recent news feature from Consumer Reports, there are steps many in the foodservice industry can do to prevent food poisoning. It should be noted, ice cream products pose an added safety risk because of the longer periods of times a container of ice cream can sit in a consumer’s freezer. This makes recalls much more difficult to organize.
Listeria monocytogenes (listeria) is a strain of bacteria naturally found in water, soil and decaying vegetation. It is found in many animals, and these animals essentially serve as carriers for the bacteria and often have no symptoms of any listeria-related illness. When those animals are killed for their meat or processed for the production of dairy products, anyone eating the meat or dairy can become infected with the disease.
As our Greenville food poisoning injury attorneys understand, it is not only through direct contamination of the meat or dairy products but also from cross contamination that people can become ill. Cross contamination is a major problem in the food service and food production industries, and it occurs when equipment or storage containers become contaminated and are not properly sterilized before they are allowed to come into contact with other food.
A frequent example of cross contamination can be found in many restaurants. If worker uses a set of tongs to pick up a hamburger, the tongs may become contaminated with one or more strains of foodborne bacteria. This is normally not a problem for the consumer of the hamburger, because the hamburger is being cooked, and the high temperature should kill most harmful bacteria. However, if that worker takes the contaminated tongs and picks up another food item, such as lettuce for another customer’s salad, that lettuce may also become contaminated. Since the lettuce is not being cooked, the consumer of the salad may become sick from eating cross-contaminated food.
Another source of direct and cross contamination of food products occurs when workers do not wash their hands or do not wash them well enough to kill most bacteria. This not only happens with listeria, but it also frequently happens with E. coli and salmonella.
Experts also point out that heating food to a proper temperature, such as by cooking or pasteurizing will kill most foodborne bacteria, but as we saw in the case of ice cream infected with listeria, freezing will not kill all strains of bacteria. While frozen, the bacteria will typically slow its reproduction rate or completely stop reproducing, so while the bacteria won’t spread, it won’t die either. After frozen bacteria is allowed to thaw, it will return to its normal activity and reproduce, thus making more bacteria.
Contact our Greenvile, South Carolina personal injury lawyers at Lee Law Offices today by calling 800-887-1965.
Prevent food poisoning from listeria bacteria , June 5, 2015, Consumer Reports
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