Listeria warning over chilled foods
Source of Article: http://ukpress.google.com/article/ALeqM5gwWQSgVWc_16ibsWLvtmYZX2k2yA
A doubling in the cases of the potentially fatal bug listeria has prompted a warning about chilled, ready to eat food.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) said the latest figures show 400 cases a year, double the number seen in 2001 and a rise of a fifth in the past 12 months.
Most of those have been in people aged 60 plus, one of the vulnerable groups for whom the bacteria can be life-threatening.
An FSA spokeswoman said: "Although 400 cases each year is still quite small, a lot of them get hospitalised and there is a high proportion of deaths."
She said similar rises had been seen in other countries and it was thought to be linked to the consumption of pre-packed, chilled food.
The spokeswoman said the greatest risk comes from eating pre-prepared food which is eaten cold, like sandwiches, salads, cooked meats, soft cheeses and pates.
There should be no problem if they are stored correctly in a fridge at a temperature below 5C and eaten before their use by date.
But the FSA fears fridges which are too warm and people's reluctance to throw away food which looks safe to the naked eye could be contributing to the rise in cases of listeriosis.
"The best before date is about quality but the use by date is about safety," the spokeswoman said.
Heating pre-packed food like ready meals usually kills any bacteria present, she added, making it less of a concern.
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