Listeriosis is a serious bacterial infection caused by eating contaminated food. Listeriosis is caused by the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. It primarily affects people of advanced age, pregnant women, newborns, and adults with weakened immune system. Babies can be born with listeriosis if their mothers eat contaminated food during their pregnancies. However, people without these risk factors can also be affected.
Symptoms of listeriosis include:
- Muscle aches
- Stiff neck
- Loss of balance
Listeria is a common cause of foodborne illnesses. Listeria monocytogenes is found in soil and water. Vegetables can get contaminated by the soil or fertilizer. Animals can carry the bacterium, and subsequently their meats and diary products will be contaminated. Listeria monocytogenes has been found in a variety of raw foods, such as uncooked meats and vegetables and processed foods such as soft cheeses and cold cuts. Unpasteurized milk and foods that contain unpasteurized milk can contain Listeria moncytogenes.
Listeriosis is treatable for the most part, but can result in death even with prompt treatment, especially in the elderly and people with weakened immune systems. Pregnant women with listeriosis need to be given antibiotics promptly to prevent infection of the babies.
In 2008, about twenty people in Canada died from listeriosis after eating the contaminated meat from Maple Leaf Foods, which is Canada’s largest food processing company. Maple Leaf Foods had inadequate food safety procedures, which caused Listeria bacteria to come in contact with one of the meat cutting blades. Maple Leaf Foods recalled hundreds of its meat products shortly after the food poisoning outbreak.