What is Listeriosis? The Disease Behind the Plant-Based Milk Recall

Several people in Ontario have fallen ill with listeriosis in an outbreak that has prompted a nationwide recall of certain plant-based milks that may have been contaminated with Listeria.

Listeria bacteria are found in soil, sewage, and untreated water. Also in foods such as meat, seafood, fruits, vegetables, and dairy products.

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How does the bacteria get into food?

Listeria can enter fruits and vegetables when contaminated water is used for crops. They can also be contaminated by Listeria in soil and manure-based fertilizers.

According to Health Canada, food processing facilities can also spread the bacteria if contaminated water or ingredients are used.

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Lori Burrows, a microbiologist at McMaster University, says Listeria can also get into food or liquids if surfaces or equipment in processing plants are not adequately disinfected.

Click to play video: 'Health Affairs: 9 People in Ontario Contract Listeriosis, Warning Issued Over Silk Brand Products'

Health Affairs: 9 People in Ontario Contract Listeriosis, Warning Issued Over Silk Brand Products

Listeriosis is a disease caused by consuming food or water contaminated with Listeria.

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It can also be passed from mother to child during pregnancy.

Public health officials say the disease can also spread through contact with infected animals, but human-to-human transmission is generally not possible.

Listeriosis can cause vomiting, nausea, persistent fever, muscle aches, severe headache, and neck stiffness.

Symptoms of severe listeriosis can occur up to 70 days after exposure to Listeria. In severe cases, the infection can be fatal.

Click to play video: 'Ask the Doctor: What is Listeria and How to Avoid It'

Ask the Doctor: What is Listeria and How Can You Avoid It?

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, people with weakened immune systems, adults over 60, and pregnant women – including their fetus or newborn baby – are at increased risk of complications from listeriosis.

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