Understanding the Foodborne Illness that Claims Lives

Listeriosis is a serious foodborne illness caused by the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes.


Listeriosis is a rare, yet serious foodborne illness caused by the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes. With a mortality rate of 20–30%, it is crucial to understand the causes, symptoms, and preventative measures of this life-threatening illness. In this article, we will delve into the reasons behind Listeriosis, its impact, and ways to prevent it. We will also discuss previous outbreaks, the efforts made in the US to curb its spread, and the latest techniques used to control Listeria contamination.

Deadly Outbreaks of Listeriosis:

meat detail listeria

Foods Prone to Listeria Contamination:

Listeria bacteria are widely present in the environment and can survive temperatures as low as 24°F. As a result, food groups prone to Listeria contamination include:

Preventing Listeria Contamination:

It is crucial to strictly adhere to food safety measures in food processing facilities to prevent the risk of Listeria contamination. If you belong to a vulnerable group, like expectant mothers, babies, senior aged, or individuals with weak immune systems, it’s important to steer clear of certain food groups. These include ice cream, salads, and cheeses, which cannot be effectively disinfected at home. Additionally, food processing facilities must adhere to rigorous sanitation protocols to ensure these foods remain safe for consumption.

Listeria Surveillance in the United States:

In the United States, any listeriosis infection must be reported to the local, state, territorial, or federal public health authorities. In 2004, the United States established a national surveillance system, the Listeria Initiative, to monitor and collect data on listeria outbreaks across the country. The Listeria Initiative also involves molecular subtyping data from clinical, food, and environmental isolates or samples of Listeria to identify clusters of possibly related cases.

Preventative Measures in Food Processing Facilities:

To prevent Listeria contamination, food processing facilities must maintain good manufacturing practices and keep the facility sanitized and clean. Regular disinfection of food handling equipment is a widely used industry practice, but in the case of Listeria, common surface disinfection practices are not enough. The following are potential sources for Listeria contamination and need to be monitored regularly:

Effective Techniques in Controlling Listeria:

UV disinfection has shown potential in controlling Listeria. Studies have shown that conveyor belts exposed to UV rays significantly decreased the Listeria population. In-line UV irradiation of the brine chiller system used to process ready-to-eat meat products also significantly reduced Listeria populations. Furthermore, direct UV irradiation of meat products has effectively killed Listeria bacteria without affecting product quality. This makes UV light treatment a crucial food safety measure for the ready-to-eat food industry.

UV disinfection works by exposing the bacteria to UV light. The light penetrates the bacteria cells, causing damage to their genetic material. This makes it difficult for the bacteria to multiply and can lead to its death.

UV disinfection has several benefits over traditional disinfection methods. Firstly, it is a chemical-free process, making it an environmentally-friendly option. Secondly, it is highly effective in killing Listeria, even in hard-to-clean areas like conveyor belts, weighing equipment, and compressed air filters. Furthermore, scientific studies have shown that it has no adverse effects on the quality of food products, making it a highly suitable choice for the food industry.

Benefits of UV Disinfection in the Food Industry:

It is important to note that UV disinfection is not a substitute for good manufacturing practices. Regular cleaning and disinfection of food handling equipment are essential food safety measures.



Listeriosis, caused by the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes, is a serious foodborne illness with a high mortality rate. Food groups especially prone to Listeria contamination include raw meat, seafood, and vegetables, ready-to-eat processed meat, refrigerated pates, ready-to-eat smoked seafood, prepared or stored salads, melons, soft cheeses made with unpasteurized milk, and unpasteurized milk and milk products.

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Date 01/02/2023


Nuvonic is the innovator in sustainable UV technology for water, air and surface disinfection on a global scale. Our mission is to support nature’s purity with science by protecting people and processes from harmful contamination.

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