Listeria monocytogenes

Listeria is a bug that can cause an illness like the flu. It can be dangerous for a number of groups including pregnant women, unborn babies and new babies and people who are unwell. It is important to avoid getting infected with Listeria, because your unborn baby can get infected too. Even a mild illness can cause you to have a miscarriage or a premature birth or your baby to get meningitis.

How can I be exposed to this infection?

Listeria can live in meat, milk, butter, cream, yogurt and vegetables. Food that is not cooked, such as salads or food from the fridge can have Listeria in it. Food that has been cooked before being sold can also contain Listeria.

Listeria monocytogenesHow do I know if I have listerosis?

Infection in healthy adults usually produces no symptoms, or a mild flu-like illness. However, in certain people including unborn babies, people with weakened immune systems and elderly people, it can cause very severe illness, or even death. A person with a Listeria infection can have symptoms such as fever, tiredness and headache. Sometimes the symptoms are mild, so you might not know you have it. If you have any concerns about symptoms or illness please consult your General Practitioner.

How can I avoid getting infected?

You can stay safe from infection by eating freshly cooked or freshly prepared foods and avoiding foods that could contain Listeria. Remember to follow the steps below:

  • Clean: Wash all fruit, vegetables and salad fully just before you eat them.
  • Cook: Cook food right through and serve it when it is still very hot.
  • Chill: Make sure that your fridge is at 5°C or below. Put chilled food in the fridge straight away and eat it as soon as possible. Throw out food that has passed the ‘use by’ or the ‘best before’ date.
  • Separate: Keep cooked food and raw food away from each other.

See our leaflet ‘Listeria and Pregnancy’, available in a number of different languages, which contains useful information and advice on how pregnant women can protect themselves and their babies throughout the pregnancy.