Based on the latest reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 350 frozen vegetable and fruit products were recalled because of the threat represented by the Listeria bacteria.
According to the CDC, this is one of the most common food illnesses in the U.S. The reason why Listeria is so persistent is that it can live in the food stored in the freezer.
A food-safety specialist and associate professor at North Carolina State University, Benjamin Chapman, explained that the freezer is the ideal place to live for Listeria bacteria. Moreover, scientists use the same freezing method when they want to preserve bacteria in order to study an organism in the lab.
Freezing temperatures do not kill the bacteria; they just prevent it from growing. Plus, Listeria is part of some bacteria that can multiply at these freezing temperatures. However, healthy people are less likely to get infected because of the contaminated foods. The ones that are most vulnerable are pregnant women, individuals with a weak immune system and adults over 65 years old.
During the last outbreak, statistics have shown that only people between 58 and 86 years old have gotten sick because of the bacteria. According to Chapman, Listeria can usually be found in raw foods. Most people tend to ingest low amounts of Listeria daily, but they are fine. In order to get sick, someone needs to swallow thousands of Listeria cells.
Nevertheless, when someone gets sick, things get serious. Statistics have shown that around 15 to 20 percent of people that get infected with Listeria die and the rest of them need to be hospitalized. Therefore, the best way to prevent a future infection is to avoid eating frozen food without cooking it first.
Even if it sounds weird, pediatricians sometimes recommend that parents let their children suck and chew on frozen vegetables while teething. Plus, frozen kale is often used in smoothies, increasing the risk of Listeria infection.
In other words, the best way to prevent Listeria is by heating the food. However, the microwave is not an option because microwaves provide heat distribution that is very uneven.
The food will only heat in some places whereas it will remain cold in others. It means that the bacteria might not be entirely killed. Plus, experts recommend people to avoid thawing frozen vegetables in the refrigerator because the bacteria might spread. All in all, cooking will help you prevent Listeria and enjoy your food.
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