Listeria found in rockmelon: a warning for pregnant women

Pregnant belly in hospital

A mum-of-three says it’s a miracle her baby is still alive after she developed a Listeria infection from eating pre-cut rockmelon while 30 weeks pregnant.

Listeriosis is an illness that comes from eating contaminated food, and while rare there have been three pregnancy-related cases in NSW this year, and it’s prompted a warning from health authorities for pregnant women to take more care with their food choices.

‘It’s a deadset miracle he’s alive’

rockmelon pregnancy listeria warning

Mosman mum Amelia Liddy-Sudbury told The Daily Telegraph she’s convinced eating pre-cut rockmelon was to blame for her close call. After eating the rockmelon she was struck down with the infection, forcing her baby’s early birth. With her son, Theodore needing weeks of intravenous antibiotics.

“It is a deadset miracle he is alive, once you are diagnosed with listeriosis, that’s usually it, the baby is dead,” Mrs Liddy-Sudbury told the reporter.

Spike in cases around Australia

The Daily Telegraph reports that two weeks ago a pregnant mum lost her baby to listeriosis, after being admitted to hospital with stomach pain, a headache and mild fever.

“Around the country, there have been more cases in the past six months as well,” revealed NSW Health director Dr Vicky Sheppeard.

Pregnant women are often aware of the more common causes of Listeria infections – like soft cheeses and raw meats, and now they’re being reminded that pre-cut food and bagged salads are just as dangerous.

“Those products are becoming more common and anything that has been cut and left is a risk, you have to wash and peel fruit and salad yourself if pregnant,” Dr Sheppeard said.

It follows several cases of salmonella poisoning from rockmelons last year, which was linked to contaminated water and insufficient cleaning.

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What is listeriosis?

Listeriosis is a serious illness that develops after eating food contaminated with the Listeria monocytogenes bacteria found in some raw foods.

What are the symptoms?

It can take between three and 70 days to show any symptoms, but usually, symptoms develop within three weeks and include:

  • fever
  • muscle aches
  • sometimes nausea and diarrhoea
  • collapse and shock
  • headache
  • stiff neck
  • confusion
  • loss of balance
  • convulsions
  • coma

How to avoid Listeria?

According to health authorities, pregnant women should not eat:

  • pre-packed cold salads (including coleslaw)
  • pre-cut fruit and fruit salads
  • pre-cooked cold chicken
  • cold deli meats
  • paté
  • raw seafood
  • smoked seafood (for example, smoked salmon)
  • unpasteurised milk or milk products
  • soft cheeses such as brie, camembert, ricotta, or blue-vein (unless cooked and eaten whilst hot)
  • sprouted seeds and raw mushrooms

Other ways to reduce your risk include:

  • thoroughly cooking raw food from animal sources, such as beef, lamb, pork, or poultry
  • washing raw vegetables and fruit thoroughly before eating
  • keeping raw meat separate from vegetables, cooked foods, and ready- to-eat foods
  • use separate cutting boards for raw meat and foods that are ready to eat
  • wash your hands before and after preparing food
  • wash knives and cutting boards after handling uncooked foods
  • wash your hands after handling animals
  • perishable foods should be stored in a cold (less than five degrees Celsius) refrigerator and be washed and eaten as soon as possible