Three recently reported cases of listeria infection in Tauranga has prompted a public health message.

Toi Te Ora Public Health and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) are reminding the public of the recommended food safety measures to reduce any risk from the bacteria.

"Listeria is a bacteria that can occasionally contaminate food and cause illness which can be serious for those with poor immunity and also pregnant women," Toi Te Ora Public Health medical officer of health Dr Neil de Wet said.

"Our investigations include determining what the cases may have eaten in order to identify any common risk factors or food that may be the source of infection."

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MPI compliance director Gary Orr said if there was a link identified between these cases and the food supply chain, immediate action would be taken to ensure public safety.

People who are at risk of more serious illness from listeria include pregnant women and their unborn babies, newborn babies, people with weakened immune systems and elderly people, especially if they have poor health.

While detailed investigations are underway and a source of infection for these recently notified cases is not yet clear, and often a source is not able to be identified for individual cases, it is a timely reminder that people who are in an at-risk group should avoid certain foods.

These foods include:
• uncooked, smoked or ready-to-eat fish or seafood, including oysters, prawns, sashimi or sushi.
• paté, hummus and tahini-based dips and spreads.
• cold pre-cooked chicken.
• processed meats including ham and all other chilled pre-cooked meat products including chicken, salami and other fermented or dried sausages.
• pre-prepared, pre-packaged or stored salads (including fruit salads) and coleslaw
raw (unpasteurised) milk and any food that contains unpasteurised milk.
• soft-serve ice creams.
• soft, semi-soft or surface-ripened soft cheese (for example, brie, camembert, feta, ricotta, roquefort).

If you or anyone in your household is in an at-risk group, it is especially important to take a few simple food safety precautions:
• Avoid eating the high-risk foods listed above.
• Follow good food hygiene practices, such as washing and drying hands before preparing food and after handling or preparing raw foods.
• Eat freshly cooked or freshly prepared foods.
• Wash all raw fruit and vegetables very well before eating.
• Cook foods thoroughly.
• Refrigerate leftovers immediately and do not keep for more than 2 days. Reheat to steaming hot before eating.

For more information about listeria and prevention visit the Ministry of Health website at www.health.govt.nz/listeria

Information on listeria from the Ministry for Primary Industries:
• For people with low immunity - www.mpi.govt.nz/food-safety/food-safety-for-consumers/people-with-low-immunity/
• List of safe food in pregnancy - www.mpi.govt.nz/food-safety/food-safety-for-consumers/food-and-pregnancy/list-of-safe-food-in-pregnancy/
• Food safety in pregnancy, pull-out guide - www.mpi.govt.nz/dmsdocument/7251-food-safety-in-pregnancy-pullout-guide

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