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Tracking down listeria

37/2020, 11.11.2020

The BfR symposium discusses online how food can be made even safer and how consumers can be better protected

Cheese, smoked fish, meat, sausages, fruit and vegetables are among the foods via which people can become infected with listeria. While most people successfully overcome an infection, immunocompromised people and the elderly can become seriously ill or even die from listeria. Food product recalls, rising infection rates over many years and persistent outbreaks make food contaminated with listeria a growing challenge for consumer protection. For this reason, the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is hosting an online symposium from 16 to 17 November 2020, which will focus on protection against listeria. "New methods, such as genetic analysis with next-generation sequencing, now make it possible to trace pathogens back to the source," says BfR President Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel. "This means that it is possible to identify products contaminated with listeria as outbreak vehicles faster and more precisely than before. This will save lives in the future."

Link to event:

Listeriosis is triggered by the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. It can also grow in an oxygen-free environment, withstand cold and even multiplies in the refrigerator. Furthermore, acid and salt cannot harm the germ. Listeria are found everywhere in the environment, such as in soil and waste water. They can enter the human body via contaminated food. Infections in healthy people are usually mild and are accompanied by feverish gastroenteritis. In serious cases, immunocompromised and elderly people can develop sepsis ("blood poisoning"), meningitis and encephalitis, and pregnant women can miscarry.

The BfR symposium aims to critically review the control strategies for Listeria monocytogenes along the food chain from the perspective of science, politics and practice and discuss new approaches to identifying and reducing risks. The event is aimed at interested parties from science, economics, politics, food monitoring, consumer protection, public health service as well as non-governmental organisations and the media.

About the BfR

The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is a scientifically independent institution within the portfolio of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) in Germany. It advises the German federal government and German federal states ("Laender") on questions of food, chemical and product safety. The BfR conducts its own research on topics that are closely linked to its assessment tasks.

This text version is a translation of the original German text which is the only legally binding version.

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