What Is Listeria?

Find out how listeriosis, a gastrointestinal illness with a high mortality rate, can get passed via a variety of foods from cooked eggs to deli meats.

Keystone - News & Insights

May 24, 2017

Listeria monocytogenes is a pathogen that causes listeriosis, a severe gastrointestinal illness. Unlike most other foodborne pathogens, listeria can grow at proper refrigeration temperatures. Listeriosis is a rare disease with a high mortality rate. People at highest risk include the elderly, pregnant women, young children and the immunosuppressed. In the U.S., 43% of food poisoning deaths are attributed to listeriosis.

Listeria can enter a restaurant via food contaminated:

  • in produce-growing environments
  • during processing
  • during handling and preparation

Food particularly sensitive to listeria are:

  • raw or unpasteurized dairy products
  • raw meat and poultry
  • deli salads
  • deli meats
  • fresh soft cheese (non-hot packed)
  • cooked meat, poultry and seafood (including smoked)
  • cooked eggs

Contributing factors associated with listeriosis risk include:

  • amount and frequency of consumption of a listeria-sensitive food
  • frequency and extent of contamination of a food with listeria
  • temperature and duration of refrigerated/chilled food storage
  • whether food can support growth of listeria


Read more about Listeria at the CDC.


This site uses cookies and other technologies to offer you a better browsing experience, analyze site traffic, and provide you with personalized content. By using this site, you consent to our use of cookies. Read our Privacy Policy as well as our Cookie Policy for more information.