Preventing listeriosis in hospitals and nursing/care homes

Last updated:
23 January 2013
Hospitals and settings such as nursing or residential care homes are legally responsible for the safety of food they provide to the people in their care.

Between 1999 and 2011, there were eight outbreaks of foodborne listeriosis in UK hospitals, which resulted in a total of eight deaths. Two fatalities have been reported from hospitals in Northern Ireland and Wales during 2012.

These outbreaks were all linked to the consumption of chilled ready-to-eat foods (perishable foods that can be consumed without further heating or processing), in particular various types of sandwiches. To reduce the risk of listeriosis, these ready-to-eat foods need to be kept chilled and eaten within their ‘use by’ date.

Who is at risk?

Although rare, listeriosis can be serious for the most vulnerable groups, where around a third of cases result in death. The groups of patients/residents known to be at increased risk of listeriosis include:

  • Pregnant women
  • People of advanced age with a weakened immune system
  • People with weakened immunity due to illness, disease, medication or treatment

Guidance

The FSA is currently developing new comprehensive advice and guidance for hospitals and healthcare professionals (expected during 2013) which will provide information on what can be done to reduce the risk of listeriosis to people in these highly vulnerable groups.

Until this becomes available, the FSA has published an information sheet for hospitals and nursing/care homes that:

  • Highlights to staff the risk of listeriosis to vulnerable people in their care
  • Outlines to staff the simple steps that can be taken to reduce this risk

Feedback

We would welcome your feedback on this information sheet and your suggestions on what more can be done in hospitals and nursing/care homes to reduce the risk of listeriosis.

Please send any comments to Kathryn Callaghan, by emailing kathryn.callaghan@foodstandards.gsi.gov.uk, or by calling 020 7276 8943.