Your Health A-Z

Maintaining a Listeria-free kitchen

Listeriosis is a serious disease caused by the bacterium, Listeria monocytogenes and is transmitted through the ingestion of contaminated food products. While anyone can get listeriosis, those at high risk of severe disease include pregnant women and their unborn babies, the elderly, persons with underlying conditions such as diabetes, cancer, chronic liver or kidney disease, and persons with weakened immune systems due to HIV, cancer or chemotherapy.

Foods implicated in the current outbreak in South Africa, include ready to eat processed meats such as polony and viennas. It is important to consider how to prevent potential cross-contamination of other foods that are stored in the fridge. The recommendation, if you have had polony and other ready to eat meat products in the fridge is to thoroughly clean and decontaminate the fridge as well as knives, cutting boards and kitchen surfaces.

What else can I do to keep my kitchen free from Listeria?

Listeria can contaminate other food products through spills or contact with affected products in the fridge.

  • Clean up all spills in your fridge right away—especially juices from processed foods and raw meats. Consider using paper towels to avoid transferring germs from a re-usable cloth
  • Clean the inside walls and shelves of your refrigerator with warm water and a liquid soap (detergent), rinse and then wipe surfaces with a mixture of bleach and water (one teaspoon of bleach with one litre of water).

Listeria can spread from one surface to another.

  • Thoroughly wash food preparation surfaces with warm, soapy water. Regularly clean the surfaces with a mixture of bleach and water (one teaspoon of bleach with one litre of water).
  • Wash cutting boards with warm, soapy water after each use. Nonporous acrylic, plastic, or glass boards can be washed in a dishwasher
  • Dish cloths, towels and cloth grocery bags should be washed frequently in hot water or in the hot cycle of a washing machine
  • It is also important to wash hands thoroughly with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food.

To prevent Listeriosis, always ensure that good basic food hygiene is followed such as:

  • Thoroughly cook raw foods – bacteria are killed at temperatures above 70oC
  • Wash your hands before preparing food, before eating and after going to the toilet
  • Wash raw vegetables and fruits thoroughly before eating
  • Separate raw and cooked food, and don’t mix utensils and surfaces when preparing food
  • Wrap or cover foods with a disposable sheet of plastic wrap, aluminium foil, or in plastic bags or store in clean covered containers before you place them in the refrigerator. Make certain foods do not leak juices onto other foodstuffs
  • Use leftover, precooked and ready-to-eat foods as soon as possible. The longer they are stored in the refrigerator, the more chance listeria has to grow
  • Re-heat leftover or pre-cooked food thoroughly to ensure that there is adequate heat distribution throughout





In the interest of our patients, in accordance with SA law and our commitment to expertise, Mediclinic cannot subscribe to the practice of online diagnosis. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical advice. If you have any major concerns, please see your doctor for an assessment. If you have any cause for concern, your GP will be able to direct you to the appropriate specialists.