Simple Precautions Can Curb Listeriosis According to LSU AgCenter Nutritionist

Elizabeth S. Reames  |  9/21/2005 1:45:37 AM

News You Can Use For September 2005

Proper refrigeration can reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses. It can reduce by two-thirds the risk of Listeriosis, an illness from improperly chilled foods, according to LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames.

The nutritionist says a recent national study revealed that only 30 percent of consumers have heard they should use a refrigerator thermometer to monitor temperature, and only 20 percent say they actually use one.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, no other measure in the home comes close to proper refrigeration for the level of effectiveness in reducing cases of foodborne illness caused by Listeria. The illness can cause meningitis and stillbirths.

Reames says harmful bacteria that may be present in food can double every 20 minutes. And the more bacteria there are, the greater the chance of foodborne illness.

"So, it's important to refrigerate food quickly, because low temperatures keep most harmful bacteria from multiplying," the nutritionist emphasizes. She offers some helpful tips for keeping cold foods cold.

• Make sure the temperature in the refrigerator is 40 F or below and 0 F or below in the freezer. Use a refrigerator/freezer thermometer to check the temperature.

• Don’t overfill the refrigerator. Cool air must circulate to help keep food safe.

• Refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared food and leftovers within two hours of purchase or preparation or within one hour if the temperature is above 90 F.

• Thaw food in the refrigerator. For quick thawing, submerge in cold water in airtight packaging or thaw in the microwave, and cook the food immediately.

• Divide large quantities of leftovers into shallow containers for quicker cooling in the refrigerator. Marinate food in the refrigerator.

• When transporting food, place cold food in a cooler with a cold source such as ice or commercial freezing gels. Keep the cooler in the coolest part of your car, rather than in a hot trunk.

Reames says there are some common myths about refrigeration and defrosting. One is that refrigeration stops bacterial growth. The truth is that refrigeration slows, but does not prevent, the growth of harmful bacteria. Always remember to refrigerate food quickly.

A second myth is that food can be safely thawed on the kitchen counter at room temperature. The truth is bacteria grow rapidly at room temperature. Avoid keeping food in the Danger Zone, which is the unsafe temperature range between 40 F and 140 F.

To keep your food safe, always follow the Thaw Law: Never defrost food at room temperature. Thaw food in the refrigerator. For quick defrosting, thaw food in airtight packaging submerged in cold water or thaw in the microwave, and cook the food immediately.

For information on related family and consumer topics, click on the Family and Home link on the LSU AgCenter homepage, at www.lsuagcenter.com.

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On the Internet: LSU AgCenter: www.lsuagcenter.com
On the Internet: Fight BAC!: www.fightbac.org
On the Internet: Food Safety Web site: www.foodsafety.gov
Source: Beth Reames (225) 578-3929, or breames@agcenter.lsu

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