Frozen Foods associated with Listeria
There is currently a Listeria outbreak in Europe and the UK, and it is thought that it may be associated with people using frozen vegetables without cooking them first. Listeria bacteria can cause very nasty symptoms including miscarriage and death, so it is very important that everyone is aware of the risks.
Because most frozen vegetables are provided ready to COOK not ready to EAT, it is very important to be aware that if the food is not ready-to-eat, then it could be dangerous to eat without cooking. It is not only Listeria that could be an issue – E.coli may also be found on unwashed produce whether fresh or frozen.
So the simple, but very important message, is to read the label on your foods to check. If it does not say ready-to-eat then cook it first.
Things to watch out for are vegetables you might put in a salad (to be healthy !!!) – sweetcorn, edamame beans, peppers, peas, mushrooms and also things you might put in a smoothie – frozen spinach for example. These foods may not be intended to be eaten without cooking, which means they could contain harmful bacteria, which would be killed by boiling or blanching. Whilst not on the Food Standards Agency list of foods to be careful of, berries and other fruits may also not be ready-to-eat – so check first!
So pay attention to:
- If in doubt, ask the person who made the food about whether they used frozen vegetables.
- If you use fresh fruit or vegetables, wash and agitate in cold water or use a vegetable wash.
- Use tinned vegetables such as sweetcorn. It is safe to use straight from the tin – save any left overs in a sealed plastic container (not the open tin)
- When making any salads or ready-to-eat foods, keep them cold preferably in the fridge below 5°C , so that if there are any bacteria in them, they will only grow slowly and won’t have chance to multiply to high levels.
- Listeria can grow at low temperatures too (the lower the temperature the slower the growth), so never exceed the shelf life of ready-to-eat foods and eat home made foods as soon as you can.
- Best practice is make the food and eat it straight away!