Vacuum-packed Food Ramps up Listeria
The Denmark National Food Institute recently concluded a study that indicates that hermetically sealing cheeses, lunch meats, and the like in plastic vacuum packs on your grocer's shelf may be ramping up the potency of Listeria bacteria 100-fold, turning it into a super killer. The purpose of the vacuum pack, of course, is to protect the food from contamination and to seal it off from oxygen, which can contribute to spoilage -- and shorter shelf life. Unfortunately, that oxygen deprived environment is a bonanza for Listeria monocytogenes, a bacterium that thrives in low oxygen and environments and kills 25 percent of the people it infects.
Unlike many other food-borne germs, Listeria can grow even in the cold temperatures of refrigerators. The FDA notes that the microbe has been linked with foods such as raw milk; ice cream; soft-ripened cheeses such as feta, Brie and Camembert; hot dogs; raw and deli meats; raw vegetables; raw and cooked poultry; and raw and smoked fish.
As one of the researchers, Tine Licht, said, "Avoiding vacuum packaging would lead to other problems with bacterial growth, so I'm not advocating that."
What to do? What to do? What to do?
Listeria is easily killed by cooking, but that doesn't help when dealing with most cheeses and sandwich meats. So given the fact that you're probably going to keep on using vacuum packed foods, best make sure you keep your immune system optimized and you keep some pathogen killers on hand to use at the first sign of food poisoning.