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Results of targeted surveillance on Listeria monocytogenes in ready-to-eat food all satisfactory

     The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department today (March 1) announced the results of a recently completed targeted food surveillance project on Listeria monocytogenes in ready-to-eat food, which showed that all samples passed the test.

     About 450 samples of ready-to-eat food, including various types of high-risk food, such as cheese, frozen confections, cold cuts, fruit, salad, sashimi, smoked salmon and other smoked seafood, were collected from different retailers, including online retailers, for testing for Listeria monocytogenes.

     "Listeria monocytogenes may continue to grow slowly at refrigerated temperatures as low as zero degrees Celsius. Refrigerated ready-to-eat food with a long shelf life is a potential high-risk item for Listeriosis as prolonged storage in a refrigerator (excluding the freezer) may allow Listeria monocytogenes to have sufficient time to grow and thus increase the consumers' risk of contracting Listeriosis," a spokesman for the CFS said.

     Listeriosis is usually caused by eating food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. Most healthy individuals do not develop symptoms or only have mild symptoms like fever, muscle pain, headache, nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea when infected. However, severe complications such as septicemia, meningitis or even death may occur in newborns, the elderly and those with a weaker immune system. Although infected pregnant women may just experience mild symptoms generally, the infection of Listeria monocytogenes may cause miscarriage, infant death, preterm birth, or severe infection in newborns.

     Despite the fact that the test results of the samples were all satisfactory, the spokesman reminded the trade and the public not to take the risk lightly. They should always maintain good personal and food hygiene to ensure food safety. Those belonging to the high-risk groups, i.e. pregnant women, infants, the elderly, chronic disease patients and those with a weaker immune system, should avoid eating high-risk foods, for example, refrigerated ready-to-eat foods such as soft cheese made from raw milk, cheesecake, cold cuts, sashimi, sushi with raw ingredients, salads and smoked seafood. The CFS will continue to promote food safety education to the public and other stakeholders through various channels to strengthen public knowledge on food safety. The Centre will also enhance communication with the food trade to raise food safety standards.

Ends/Tuesday, March 1, 2016
Issued at HKT 14:31


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