08 September 2023

NSW Health is reminding people who are immunocompromised, pregnant, or aged over 65 years to avoid foods that can cause listeriosis, following several confirmed cases of listeria infection in NSW.

Listeriosis infection, which comes from consuming food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes bacteria, can cause severe illness or even death in vulnerable people. Most healthy people will not become ill.

Director of NSW Health’s One Health branch, Keira Glasgow, said the call follows a rise in both the number reported cases of listeriosis and the number of people treated in hospital for their illness.

“Already in 2023, we’ve recorded 25 cases of listeriosis among NSW residents, which is more than we usually expect to see in a whole year,” Ms Glasgow said.

“There are a range of foods that present very real risks to people who are older, pregnant or have underlying health conditions such as cancer, diabetes, heart, liver, or kidney disease, or who are on medications such as corticosteroids which impact immune systems.

“That’s why NSW Health is reminding these vulnerable people to be aware of the foods that present these risks. It’s vital these people choose safer options at all times.”

Symptoms usually start with fever and muscle aches. In people at high-risk, the disease can rapidly spread to the blood or central nervous system, causing sudden onset of fever, intense headache, stiff neck, confusion or delirium, convulsions, loss of balance, or a coma.

For information on listeriosis, see the NSW Health listeriosis fact sheet.

People at increased risk of listeriosis are reminded to avoid the following foods, and take care not to contaminate fruit when cutting it and not to store cut fruit and vegetables that are eaten raw, as listeria survives refrigeration:

  • cold delicatessen meats (freshly sliced, pre-packaged or from sandwich bars)
  • pre-cooked cold chicken (whole, portions or diced)
  • smoked seafood (for example, smoked salmon), unless cooked and served hot
  • chilled or raw seafood (for example, ready-to-eat prawns)
  • rockmelon, and pre-cut fruit or pre-prepared fruit, including fruit salad (pre-packaged, buffets or salad bars)
  • pre-packed cold salads, including coleslaw (pre-packaged, buffets or salad bars)
  • frozen vegetables, unless cooked
  • pâté or meat spreads
  • unpasteurised milk or milk products
  • soft cheeses such as brie, camembert, ricotta, or blue-vein (unless cooked and eaten while hot)
  • soft serve ice cream
  • sprouted seeds