The news today is reporting a story about two people who have died from listeria infection. Ten people in total have been affected by this outbreak, which has been linked to rockmelons from a farm at Nericon in the Riverina in NSW.

Every year in Australia, about 150 people are hospitalised with listeriosis and about 15 die.

Although infection most commonly comes from cold meats, soft cheeses and unpasteurised milk, listeria can also be found in fresh fruits and vegetables that have been contaminated by the soil or by manure used as fertiliser.

Who is vulnerable to listeriosis?

If you are preparing food for elderly people, pregnant women or infants, you need to be especially careful about listeria.

Most healthy people can eat foods contaminated with listeria and feel no effect at all. However, the same food can cause severe illness and even death in vulnerable groups. The ten cases reported in this most recent outbreak have all been elderly.

Protecting your customers

Some steps that you can take include:

Make sure potentially hazardous food is kept cold

Listeria can grow in the refrigerator, but temperatures below 5°C slow down its growth considerably.

Not poisoning your customers is your responsibility

Every kitchen is busy, but that is not an excuse for ignoring food safety.

Make sure your staff understand the risk of diseases such as listeriosis and salmonellosis. Ensure they know how to wash their hands properly, and how to clean preparation areas to avoid cross-contamination.

Near enough is never good enough when it comes to food safety.