Public health advice - listeria infections

Public Health Services has reiterated that health warnings regarding food products and listeria infection are aimed at people at increased risk.

This warning applies to the elderly, pregnant women, newborn babies, and people who have weakened immune systems through cancer or transplants.

These people are at much higher risk of a listeria infection than other people and therefore should avoid foods that may contain small amounts of listeria.

People who are otherwise healthy and not pregnant are at very low risk of listeria.

There has been no evidence that any product having been released for sale containing more listeria than food standards stipulate. This is why there has been no food recall, and why people who are not in a risk category do not need to avoid these foods.

All three interstate cases of listeria infection have been elderly and had existing health conditions that put them at increased risk.

Standard public health advice is for people who are at higher risk of a listeria infection is for them to avoid consuming:

  • Chilled seafood, such as raw oysters, sashimi and sushi, smoked ready-to-eat seafood and cooked ready-to-eat prawns.
  • Cold meats from delicatessen counters and sandwich bars, and packaged, sliced ready-to-eat meats.
  • Cold cooked ready-to-eat chicken (whole, portions or diced).
  • Rockmelon.
  • Pre-prepared or pre-packaged fruit or vegetable salads, including those from buffets and salad bars.
  • Soft, semi-soft and surface-ripened cheeses such as brie, camembert, ricotta, blue and feta.
  • Refrigerated pate or meat spreads.
  • Soft-serve ice cream.
  • Unpasteurised dairy products.

Industries that produce these products have standards which they must comply with and conduct testing to minimise the risk to public. Consumers need to understand their own personal risk given the above factors and make their consumption choices accordingly.

Risk of listeria infection can be further reduced by:

  • Avoiding food that is past its best before or use by date.
  • Refrigerating leftovers promptly and using them within 24 hours, or freezing them.
  • Cooking food thoroughly.
  • Reheating food until it is steaming hot.

Dr Mark Veitch
Director, Public Health Service

25 July 2019