A month ago, Listeria was not a household word in the United States. Now that the pathogen has turned up in cantaloupes, a few more people know about this rare but dangerous bacteria.

The virulence of L. monocytogenes is underlined by the melon-linked outbreak, which so far infected has at least 116 people in 25 states, killing 23. Three years ago, Canada was hit by a Listeria outbreak that took the lives of 23 of the 57 sickened by deli meats, which are considered to be at risk for Listeria contamination.

Although cases of listerisosis remain rare, the outcome can be fatal. For every three people who contract Listeria infection, one will die. The pathogen also causes a wide range of secondary conditions such as abortion, meningitis and septicaemia.

So what can be done about protecting the food supply and consumers from Listeria?

That will be the topic of a Food Seminars International webinar at 2 p.m., Eastern Time on Thursday, Oct. 20. The webinar will include an overview of L. monocytogenes that includes the characteristics of the pathogen and the mode in which it causes illness.

A review of the outbreaks linked to L. monocytogenes will be provided to illustrate the broad range of foods that can be potentially contaminated by the pathogen. Also covered will be the sources of L. monocytogenes and methods of detection, as well as the control of L. monocytogenes through interventions and regulations.

Specifically, the webinar will touch on:

— Environmental sampling plans for Listeria control and diagnostic tests

— Molecular typing as a tool to monitor and trace Listeria populations

— Formulation hurdles to control the growth of Listeria in foods

— Intervention methods for controlling Listeria

Food Seminars International says the webinar is geared to benefit quality assurance managers, production managers, laboratory managers, food safety personnel, HACCP coordinators, government food inspectors, sanitation managers, corporate and plant microbiologists, processing engineers and operations supervisors and managers.

The webinar will be presented by Dr. Keith Warriner, associate professor wit the Department of Food Science at University of Guelph, Canada and Director of the Food Safety and Quality MSc program.

Cost for the webinar is $269. The webinar plus a recording of the session is $359. If you can’t attend the webinar the recording is $289. 

For more information and to register for the webinar, go to the Food Seminars International website.