The Food Safety Information Council has issued a warning about food safety as Australians prepare to gather and feast together this Easter long weekend.
There have been 40 cases of listeria infections in Australia this year, including six deaths and a miscarriage.
Council chairwoman Rachelle Williams said food poisoning could be extremely dangerous.
“While listeria infection is rare, it can be a very serious disease in pregnant women, people who have diabetes, cancer or suppressed immune systems, and the elderly over 70, all of whom will need to avoid certain foods,” Ms Williams said.
Listeria was easily killed with heat, although cooked foods could easily become re-contaminated if poorly handled after cooking or left in the kitchen, she said.
“The best way to avoid listeria infection is to eat freshly cooked or freshly prepared food and to be very careful with hygiene ensuring you wash hands and keep utensils and the kitchen environment clean.”
As listeria could grow slowly in the fridge, ready-to-eat food should never be stored in the fridge for too long, she said.