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Listeria: The Unwanted BBQ Guest

Two women grilling hotdogs and chicken.It’s summer time! Break out the swim suit, sunglasses, sandals and grill. Not only is summer peak season for backyard barbeques, it is also prime time for foodborne illnesses. Bacteria grow fast at warmer temperatures and can make you sick—leaving you with not so good memories of your family barbeque this summer.

Listeria monocytogenes is a dangerous bacterium that you should be on the lookout for all year round—especially in the summer months. Listeria can cause a foodborne illness called listeriosis. It can grow at refrigeration temperatures and is one of the deadliest foodborne illnesses.

Pregnant women are more likely to be affected by Listeria than healthy people. In fact, they are about 10 times more likely than the general population to get listeriosis. Listeria can be passed to your unborn baby, even when you show no sign of sickness. It can lead to premature delivery, miscarriage, stillbirth, and death in newborns.

During pregnancy, it is important to be aware of the foods you are eating. Listeria is commonly found in ready-to-eat foods. These foods include:

  • Soft-ripened cheeses (traditional Mexican-style cheeses, Camembert, Brie, Feta, and Ricotta);
  • Raw vegetables;
  • Store-brought salads (ham, chicken, tuna, and seafood);
  • Deli meats; and,
  • Hot dogs (a barbeque favorite). 

If these foods can’t be reheated or cooked, pregnant women should avoid eating them.

Hot dogs are a certainty at any barbeque. For this reason, it is important to keep Listeria from lurking in your hotdogs especially for pregnant guests, their unborn babies, and newborns. Here are a few tips to keep your grilled hot dogs in tip-top shape:

  • Never eat hotdogs straight out the package as a pre-BBQ snack—hot dogs must always be heated to 165°F or higher before eaten.
  • Wash hands after handling hot dogs from the package.
  • Avoid getting hot dog juice from the package on other foods, utensils, or preparation surfaces.
  • After grilling hot dogs, keep the temperature at 140°F or higher until served.
  • Make sure leftover hot dogs are refrigerated or put on ice two hours after they are removed from the grill or one hour if the temperature is over 90°F. When you reheat them, heat them to 165F or higher.
  • Leftover hot dogs that have been refrigerated should be eaten within three to four days.

Properly cooking hot dogs WILL help keep Listeria from making a surprise appearance at your backyard BBQ.

Please visit www.foodsafety.gov for more information about food safety and direct food safety questions to the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or www.AskKaren.gov.


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Posted in: Bacteria/Virus | Food Safety | SeasonalTagged: Food Safety | Summer | Grilling