Pregnant mum, Amelia Liddy-Sudbury, didn’t think twice when she bought some pre-cut rockmelon.
Thirty three weeks into her pregnancy, Mrs Liddy-Sudbury picked up a Listeria infection — one that could have killed her and her baby.
“I bought it, cut up and I think that was the source,” the 35-year-old Mosman mum tells Courier Mail.
Baby Theodore was delivered five weeks premature.
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“It is a deadset miracle he is alive, once you are diagnosed with listeriosis, that’s usually it, the baby is dead,” Mrs Liddy-Sudbury said.
Listeriosis, caused by the food-borne listeria bacteria, kills one out of every five unborn babies it infects.
Sadly two weeks ago another pregnant mum tragically lost her baby to listeriosis.
The woman arrived at hospital with abdominal pain, headache and mild fever. Her baby was delivered by caesarean section but was stillborn as a result of the infection.
Including Mrs Liddy-Sudbury, it was the third pregnancy-related case this year in NSW, three times the usual rate.
NSW Health director Dr Vicky Sheppeard told Courier Mail the three cases represented a concerning spike.
“Around the country there have been more cases in the past six months as well,” she said.
Health authorities are now urgently reminding pregnant woman to be extra careful with their food choices.
Listeria bacteria is found in a variety of foods, including cold meats, cold cooked chicken, raw fish, soft-serve ice cream, soft cheeses and unpasteurised milk.
But the bacteria is also found in pre-cut fruit and pre-bagged salads, products that are highly popular in supermarkets and convenience stores.
“Those products are becoming more common and anything that has been cut and left is a risk, you have to wash and peel fruit and salad yourself if pregnant,” Dr Sheppeard said
The Food Safety Information Council says between 2010 and 2014 there were 61 deaths due to listeria in Australia.
While most of these cases were in adults with underlying health conditions, ten were unborn or new-born babies.
Although Listeria cases are rare it can be a very serious disease and miscarriage can result if a pregnant woman is infected, even if she doesn’t show any symptoms. The time from infection to symptoms can be anywhere between 8 to 90 days.
The Food Safety Information Council says Listeria is easily killed by heat, although cooked foods can easily become re-contaminated through poor food handling after cooking.
This is one of the few pathogens that can grow at refrigeration temperatures, so ready to eat food should never be stored in the fridge too long.
Although Listeria can grow in the fridge, it will do so very slowly so make sure your refrigerator is keeping your food at or less than 5°C.
See tips below from Food Safety Information Council on how to avoid Listeria:
1. prepare and cook your own food so you know it is fresh
2. wash your hands before handling food and keep your kitchen and utensils clean
3. avoid refrigerated foods that are past their ‘best before’ or ‘use by’ date
4. refrigerate leftovers as soon as they stop steaming and use within 24 hours, reheat them to 75 °C
Also try to avoid foods which have a higher risk of Listeria contamination such as:
• 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)
• pre-prepared or pre-packaged fruit or vegetable salads, including those from buffets and salad bars
• chilled seafood such as raw oysters, sashimi and sushi, smoked ready-to-eat seafood and cooked ready-to-eat prawns
• soft, semi-soft and surface-ripened cheeses such as brie, camembert, ricotta, blue and feta
• refrigerated paté or meat spreads
• soft serve ice cream
• unpasteurised dairy products.
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