"Almost everyone that acquires a listeria infection is hospitalized, and about 20 percent die," said Susan Grayson, head of the Dairy and Food Protection Branch of the Department of Environmental Health in the N.C. Department of Environmental and Natural Resources.
There are about 2,500 cases of listeria reported in the U.S. each year. Those who have weakened immune systems, such as those undergoing chemotherapy or those on immunosuppressants, are more susceptible to the disease.
While health inspections and restaurant ratings help arm customers with the information to make smart decisions about where they choose to eat out, it is up to the customer to note those ratings and pay attention to their environment. Aside from ratings, look to see how servers handle food and utensils. Do they put their fingers on the rim of drinking glasses? If you ask for an extra fork or knife, do they touch the prongs or blade rather than the handle? A sense of professionalism and care goes a long way in helping to determine what’s going on behind the scenes.