JOHANNESBURG – Over 170 people have already died since the start of an outbreak of listeriosis in South Africa.
The Department of Health on Sunday revealed the source of the deadly outbreak.
eNCA compiled this guide to help you effectively deal with a possible contamination at home.
1) Bleach is your friend
Experts say one of the most effective ways of cleaning a fridge or surfaces that may have come into contact with contaminated food is by diluting some bleach and water.
Surfaces where food is prepared should be decontaminated regularly, particularly after preparing raw meat, poultry and eggs.
2) Don’t throw recalled items in the bin
The health ministry has urged South Africans not to throw away affected food in the bin as others could come into contact with the food items.
3) Store raw and cooked food separately
Keeping cooked food away from raw food can help prevent cross-contamination and people should learn protocols on how to handle these foods separately.
Raw foods and cooked foods should never come into contact with one another during handling and storage, international food safety expert at Food Safety Solutions Doctor Lucia Anelich said.
EXPLAINER: What is listeriosis?
4) Listeriosis thrives in the fridge
Listeria is easily able to multiply in the fridge if a food item is contaminated, unlike most other food-borne pathogens.
In order to prevent the spread, experts suggest fridge temperatures should be set below 4⁰C while your freezer should be set at a temperature below -18⁰C.
In terms of temperatures, listeria thrives in temperatures of between 5⁰C and 60⁰C.
Anelich says the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that raw products be kept at the very bottom of the fridge while cooked products should be kept higher up. She says this point is very crucial.
5) Don’t compromise with affected products
Given the situation, Anelich says it is best to avoid all affected products altogether.
This despite food cooked at a temperature of over 70⁰C generally being safe as it kills the listeriosis bacteria.
She further states that it is important not to panic and to note that most well-cooked foods are generally safe from diseases such as listeriosis and salmonella, if handled correctly and no cross-contamination occurs.
6) Cleaning utensils
Cleaning kitchen utensils properly is also vital to prevent any cross-contamination. Make sure that difficult to clean items, in particular, are washed very well after use.
7) Foods to avoid
Enterprise Foods and Rainbow Chicken are particularly affected by the outbreak, but it is best to avoid all ready to eat processed meats, irrespective of the manufacturer.
Polony, russians, viennas and any other processed meat should be avoided altogether and all fruit and vegetables must be washed very well.
High-risk groups, like infants, the elderly, pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems, should avoid raw or unpasteurised milk, or dairy products that contain unpasteurised milk. Soft cheeses like feta, goat cheese and brie, could pose a risk. Refrigerated pâtés should also be avoided.