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If You Cook Your Vegetables Don’t Fear Listeria

You don’t need to throw out everything in your freezer. You just need to make sure it’s cooked to a temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit.


The Internet is blowing up over listeria again. Last time it was ice cream. This time it’s frozen vegetablesAccording to the Centers for Disease Control, since September of 2013 eight people have been hospitalized with listeria thought to be linked to frozen vegetable contamination, and two of those have died, although their deaths were not considered caused by listeria. It is now being recommended that anything on the recall list going back to 2014 be sealed in a plastic bag and thrown away. Oh, and don’t forget the hazmat suit.

Can we all just calm down for a minute? Buried in most articles on the topic is the observation that “the vegetables in the recall are typically cooked before they’re eaten, which would kill the bacteria.” Oh.

That’s right. You don’t need to throw out everything in your freezer. You just need to make sure it’s cooked to a temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit. That means if you bring the frozen veggies to a boil, you’re safe.

Look, I appreciate that if there is something harmful in a product we have purchased we as consumers deserve the right to know. But whatever happened to a little common sense? Why do we panic so over these things? Well, number one of course is the lawyers (and the people who hire them). Enough said.

Number two is the culture of fearpanic, and dependency that continues in so many ways to drive us, ironically sometimes making us less likely to heed warnings because we’re so used to being warned.

Number three is our need, at the same time we want to be protected and taken care of, to feel powerful. We live in a society in which government increasingly tells us we can’t be trusted to do anything for ourselves. Because a part of us doesn’t want to have the responsibility for taking care of ourselves, we have bought into the government lie.

At the same time, we deeply desire independence, freedom, and self-sufficiency. We want to be the masters of our own fates. So we look for little ways to feel like we have some control. Food is one area of our lives in which we can to some extent do that. So we buy into every food, diet, health, and vitamin fad in an effort to feel like we’re doing something, anything, to influence the short, gasping breath that is our own tiny little life in the vast span of human history.

But back to today. You don’t have throw out everything in your freezer. You just have to use a little common sense. Let me repeat. If you’re going to eat a frozen vegetable, don’t eat it frozen from the bag. Don’t simply run it under hot water. Don’t warm it up in the microwave. Boil it. Problem solved.

My husband tells a childhood story of discovering from his father that the peanut butter he was eating probably had insect parts in it. His dad delighted in telling him that many of our foods contain trace ingredients we might prefer not to think about. At the end of the stomach-turning litany, my husband’s father smiled broadly at his children and cheerfully announced, “But it’s all cooked and sterilized, so it’s nutritious.”

Exactly. Listen to dad. Eat your vegetables. After you cook them.