If you’re like most grocery-store-going Americans—that is to say, pretty much everyone in the U.S.—you’ve probably heard about listeria outbreaks. Linked to about 1,600 cases every year, the foodborne illness is potentially deadly; it’s been blamed for as many as 260 deaths each year in the U.S. alone.
While it's been linked to numerous outbreaks over the years—Eggo waffles, caramel apples, frozen vegetables, and ready-made salads have all been subject to recent listeria-based recalls—the most serious outbreak in U.S. history occurred in the summer of 2011, when cantaloupe from a single Colorado farm sickened 147 people and killed 33.
Another example: the Blue Bell Creameries listeria outbreak of 2015, which seriously sickened 10 people in four states and ultimately claimed three lives in Kansas. The outbreak eventually forced the company to shut down all of its production plants and, in April of 2015, recall every one of its products on the market because of the risk of spreading particularly virulent strains of the disease.
Fortunately, as long as you stay up-to-date on recalls and take care to properly wash your fresh fruits and vegetables, you're pretty much safe from listeria and other foodborne illnesses. Here's what you need to know to eradicate it from your kitchen altogether: