Listeriosis: Here's how to make your kitchen a disease-free zone


Listeriosis: Here’s how to make your kitchen a disease-free zone

Listeriosis doesn’t have to be a death sentence. In fact, it doesn’t even have to get into your kitchen at all…

Listeriosis: Here's how to make your kitchen a disease-free zone


Although South Africa is far from winning its war on Listeriosis, the source of the outbreak was identified this weekend. It may just prove to be crucial in attempts to contain the disease.

So far, the bacterial infection has claimed 180 lives in the last 14 months, and there have been 948 cases reported to health authorities. Gauteng is the most severely affected area, with more than half of cases nationwide occurring in the province.

Earlier, we reported that Listeriosis can put up resistance against cleaning agents. Sometimes, it can survive against the impact of other bacteria. But this does not mean you can’t keep the disease out of your home.

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NCID) have published their guide to keeping kitchens completely listeriosis-free. It applies to food preparation areas in both homes and businesses, and might just save a few lives.

How to keep Listeriosis out of the kitchen:

A quick scrub isn’t enough

The cells of Listeria can actually survive a clean-up attempt in the right circumstances. They form a “biofilm” over themselves and stop their metabolism – effectively playing dead – until conditions are more favourable for the bacteria to thrive again.

The NCID, therefore, recommend all kitchen surfaces, retail surfaces, fridges and machinery should be washed thoroughly with warm water and soap. And that’s just for starters.

After soaping down all areas where food resides, these areas need to be washed with a dilute mixture of one litre of water, and one teaspoon of bleach. The solution should cover the entire surface, and be left standing for 10 minutes.

Any spill requires your utmost attention

Listeriosis is a bacteria that thrives in unpure water. If something tips over in your fridge, it is imperative you get it cleaned up quickly. Listeria cells are very odd, in the sense that they can survive in cooler conditions. It is essential that any juice from stored meat products are taken care of instantly.

South Africans are advised to use paper towels to mop-up these spills, in order to avoid using teatowels or cloths which can harbour the disease, and transfer it to other surfaces.

The same level of care goes into food preparation machinery too. If you use a meat slicer, blenders, or anything mechanical, you must take the device apart to clean it. Don’t just scrub the outsides, get into every surface and corner on the inside too.

Give Listeriosis no place to go

  • Thoroughly wash food preparation surfaces with warm, soapy water. Every month, clean the surfaces with a mixture of bleach and water (one teaspoon of bleach with one litre of water).
  • Wash cutting boards with warm, soapy water after each use. Nonporous acrylic, plastic, or glass boards can be washed in a dishwasher.
  • Dishcloths, towels and cloth grocery bags should be washed often in hot water or in the hot cycle of a washing machine.
  • It is also important to wash hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food.

Get the basics right

Of course, it can come across as patronising, but there are still a few need-to-know tips that work wonders in the fight against the disease:

All foods that need cooking have to be done at 74C / 165F or higher. Keep raw and cooked food separate, and don’t mix any utensils whilst cooking. Thoroughly wash raw vegatables before consuming them, and keep any leftovers covered with foil or plastic wrap.

Half of the battle is using common sense. Yes, Listeriosis is a deadly disease that’s proving hard to contain. But it doesn’t have to be a life sentence. In fact, if you follow these steps, the bacteria won’t stand a chance in your kitchen.