All bacteria don’t like cold temperatures and at 32°F they start to become sluggish. As the temperature drops, bacteria become inactive and stop multiplying, but as soon as conditions are warmer, bacteria are vigorous again. The only thing that can kill bacteria is an environment with temperatures over 140°F. If you think your food is safe in the refrigerator because it’s well over 140°F in there, you haven’t met Team Listeria. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) confirmed that listeria, found in soil, water, poultry and cattle, can continue to multiply and spread even in cold temperatures and can only be killed by pasteurization or cooking food thoroughly.
Listeria can be found in raw milk, as well as foods made from or with raw milk. Processed meats such as hotdogs, delicatessen meats recipes(such as pepperoni, salami and bologna), pre-packed salads, smoked fish and seafood, pates, meat spreads, raw sprouts and soft cheeses made with unpasteurized milk like Feta, Brie and Camembert can also be contaminated as they are able to thrive in food processing plants.
Pregnant women, organ transplant patients who are under medication, old people, breastfeeding mothers and people afflicted with cancer, end-stage renal disease, diabetes, liver disease and weak immune systems and alcoholics are highly susceptible to listeriosis, the bacterial infection caused by listeria.
Before storing foods in the refrigerator, make sure that they are completely covered or wrapped tightly or are in well-sealed containers with none of the juices leaking out of them. When grocery shopping, buy perishable foods last like milk last and take them straight home for refrigeration. Wash your hands thoroughly before and after preparing food, and especially after using the bathroom, gardening, changing diapers, cleaning up children after they use the bathroom, handling money and playing with pets.
Leftovers should be eaten within 3 days, otherwise, dispose of them, and if you do eat them, make sure you re-heat them well at 160°F. Segregate uncooked meats, seafoods and eggs from fresh produce like fruits and vegetables, cooked foods and ready-to-eat foods. Use disposable paper towels to clean up spills made by meat, seafood or poultry juices in your refrigerator to avoid spreading listeria germs to cloth towels.
Wash cooking utensils, cutting boards made from nonporous acrylic, plastic or glass, knives and other cutting utensils thoroughly after each use and make sure that you cut up fruits and vegetables first before meat, poultry or seafood. Spills on kitchen countertops must be washed out with a solution of 3 tablespoons of chlorine bleach per 1 gallon of water and then dried thoroughly before being used again. Disinfect your refrigerator regularly and wash kitchen cloth towels using the hot cycle of your washing machine.