Listeriosis or Listeria

Hispanic Women preparing food

Listeriosis. listeria  or listeria monocytogenis is a bacterial that can be found in multiple sources, such as water, milk, solid, decayed matter, wood, plants, animals and birds. Listeriosis can be severely detrimental to the pregnant women and her baby. You can develop sepsis (infection in the blood) heart and lung problems. It can affect the pregnancy causing a miscarriage, premature labor, and delivery, sepsis to the newborn and even death.

Pregnant women are more at risk for getting Listeriosis,  because of pregnant women have a decrease immune system to fight infections. Hispanic women are at a greater risk because of many of the many soft cheeses commonly eaten among Hispanic women. The most common way for women to get the disease is from food that is contaminated. The Center for Disease control, CDC estimates that approximately 1600 illnesses and 260 deaths due to listeriosis occur annually in the United States.

Raw meat and poultry or undercooked meats can contain harmful levels of bacteria, which are particularly dangerous during pregnancy. If you must touch these food products, be certain to wash your hands and all utensils thoroughly and as soon as possible.

Listeriosis can live on deli meats. Therefore, all deli meats should be considered off-limits when you are pregnant. If you must eat deli meats during pregnancy, be sure to always heat the meat to above steaming to ensure that any bacteria are killed.

Tips to prevent listeriosis

  • Avoid use of untreated manure on crops that destined for human consumption
  • Thoroughly cook all meat products (e.g., beef, pork and poultry). Visit the guideline for safe minimum cooking temperatures: Click here
  • Thoroughly wash raw vegetables before eating, cutting or cooking. Even with peeled vegetables, you must rinse with water.
  • Melons should be washed thoroughly and scrubbed the outside skin. Melons should be discarded or not eaten if left at room temperature for more than 20 minutes.
  • Keep uncooked meats separate for vegetables and cooked/prepared foods.
  • Avoid drinking raw (unpasteurized) mild or food that is made from raw milk
  • Keep kitchen clean, wash hands, knives and cutting boards after handling uncooked foods
  • Monitor refrigerator temperature, should be kept at 40F or lower because listerosis can grow
  • Store luncheon meats and hot dogs wrapped and discard after 3-5 days after opening.
  • Avoid soft cheeses (queso blanco, queso fresco, feta, brie, camembert and blue cheese).
  • Avoid Smoked meats, including jerky, lox and kippered fish
  • Look for the label: Made with Pasteurized milk
  • Avoid pate
  • Leftover foods or ready-to-eat foods such as hot dogs and deli meats should be reheated until steaming hot before eating.

Here is Mirabel’s story on how eating Queso Fresco harmed her baby from the U.S. Government food and Drug administration: Click here


Janakiraman, V. (2008). Listeriosis in pregnancy: diagnosis, treatment, and prevention. Reviews in Obstetrics and Gynecology1(4), 179.