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September 29, 2011

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City alerted to prevent listeria

LOCALS are being warned not to buy pre-cut fruit to prevent possible listeria infections, the Shanghai Food and Drug Administration said yesterday.

Listeria-tainted cantaloupes have infected 72 people in the United States and killed 16, US health officials say.

Local entry-exit inspection and quarantine authorities are aware of the listeria outbreak, but haven't announced any action. China's General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine also remained silent yesterday.

Listeria usually exists in raw meat, dairy products and old food being kept in refrigerators for days.

It can be found almost everywhere in the environment, with seven types of bacterial strains. One type in particular can cause damage to people's blood, intestinal and nerve systems.

Vulnerable groups include infants, pregnant women, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems. They may have symptoms such as flu, vomiting and diarrhea.

Gu Zhenhua, an official with the Shanghai FDA, said there was no case of group infection of listeria reported in the city.

"Listeria doesn't survive the heat," said Gu. "People should cook their vegetables and meat thoroughly."

As pre-cut fruit is easily tainted by listeria, people are advised to buy unprocessed, whole fruit, and to wash it carefully before eating. People should also not eat food that's been kept too long in the refrigerator, Gu said.

He said single cases of people being infected with listeria have been found in the city before, as the bacteria exists widely in all types of food, but people don't have to worry about a massive outbreak of the infection as long as they learn to protect themselves.

Many countries, including China, have standards and regulations to control the content of listeria bacteria, including food testing.

Listeria is more deadly than well-known pathogens like salmonella and E. coli, though those outbreaks are more common and generally cause many more illnesses.

According to The Associated Press, 21 people died in an outbreak of listeria poisoning in 1998 traced to contaminated hot dogs and possibly deli meats.

Another large listeria outbreak in 1985 killed 52 people and was linked to Mexican-style soft cheese. Both cases occurred in the United States.


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