Every hour of every day people around the world are living with and working to resolve food safety issues. Here is a sampling of current headlines for your consumption, brought to you today with the support of Alchemy Systems.

Dozens dead in South Africa Listeria outbreak
More than 550 people are confirmed sick, with at least 36 dead, in an ongoing Listeria outbreak in South Africa. South Africa’s government reports the source of the outbreak is likely to be a food product consumed by people across all socio-economic groups.

From Jan. 1 through Nov. 29, reports of 557 laboratory-confirmed listeriosis cases had been recorded across all provinces in South Africa. Of 70 victims for whom complete information has been reported, 36 have died.

Public health officials are visiting the homes of victims and sampling suspect food when possible.

Officials have also asked the country’s 23 private food testing labs — as well as labs operated by the South African Meat Processors Association, South African Milk Processors Association, Milk South Africa, Consumer Goods Council and the National Laboratory Association — to share information about Listeria for the year to date and to provide isolate samples for testing.

As of Tuesday, two of the private labs had voluntarily provided isolates to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases.

Happy Handwashing Awareness Week
The holidays, colds and germs are comin’ to town. With Handwashing Awareness Week comes a reminder for how to have healthy holidays through handwashing.

Some adults ban young children from food preparation and table setting at holiday gatherings, but proper handwashing can help keep little helpers safely in the mix. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say it’s the single most important step in putting a halt to the spread of germs, including foodborne pathogens.

Share this handwashing demonstration video with friends and relatives to decrease the chances of sharing more than the spirit of the season.

For the New Year, the CDC encourages people to “Create a Handwashing Campaign” at a school. The deadline to enter classrooms in the national contest for recognition is Jan. 31, 2018.

Listeria can resurrect itself in your body
A recent study of Listeria monocytogenes at AgroParis Techn and Université Paris-Saclay documented how the pathogen can remain dormant and undetectable in people, making infections difficult for doctors to diagnosis.

In this image from the Pasteur Institute, Listeria monocytogenes (shown in red) is in the process of infecting tissue cells.

Symptoms of listeriosis, the infection caused by Listeria, can take up to 70 days after exposure to appear. The researchers found the pathogen can go undetected by diagnostic tests, because of its ability to enter “host cells” during cell division. The bacteria are viable, but in a state that prohibits cultivation during lab tests.

The scientists also determined Listeria can function differently in liver and placenta tissues. The pathogen’s protein production can come to a temporary halt, making it able to resist antibiotics. Pregnant women infected by Listeria are at risk for miscarriage, stillbirth, premature labor, and spreading the infection to their newborns.

These dormant forms of Listeria monocytogenes can last for weeks and months. Frequently spread by contaminated food, Listeria’s ability to hide in cells and certain tissues for such long periods of time makes the investigation of sources of contamination particularly difficult.

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