By Alexandra Sifferlin
May 23, 2016

Outbreaks of listeria, a bacteria that grows well in cooler temperatures, have caused a frozen-food company to recall close to 360 frozen-food products sold under 42 different brand names — and that’s just the latest recall of popular foods people keep in the fridge. Brands of sunflower seeds, salad dressings and trail mix are also recalled due to a separate listeria contamination. The bacteria was also behind the 2015 Blue Bell outbreak, which required the company to shut down production and recall all of its ice cream.

But there are ways to keep yourself protected from listeria, even beyond making sure you are not eating recalled food.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends washing fruits and vegetables — including produce that you peel, like an orange — very well by running them under water before using them. For harder fruits and vegetables, like melons, zucchini and cucumbers, the CDC recommends scrubbing them with a brush. Be sure to dry off your fruits and vegetables and keep them away from uncooked meats.

Other preventative measures include keeping a clean kitchen, washing counter tops after cooking and cleaning out the fridge regularly. Keep the refrigerator at 40°F or lower and the freezer at 0°F or lower.

Another way to avoid contamination is to eat foods that are precooked or ready-to-eat as soon as possible. Deli meat shouldn’t sit longer than five days in the fridge, opened packages of hot dogs shouldn’t stay for longer than one week, and leftovers should be eaten within four days, the CDC advises. Follow these guidelines, and you’ll reduce your risk of getting sick from listeria.

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