Monday, January 14, 2013


People all over the world, including in the U.S., love smoked salmon. I do too. But the truth is, that it can be unsafe to eat, particularly for anyone who is in the high-risk group for listeriosis infection (caused by the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes). That group includes: pregnant women, the elderly, anyone with a compromised immune system, people with chronic liver or kidney disease, diabetics and alcoholics.

Currently we have a large, multi-state and multi-item recall of cold smoked salmon products in the U.S. It started at the end of 2012, and since then, has got bigger (see Right - here we go again. Testing turned up Listeria monocytogenes bacteria.

Recalls of smoked salmon happen just about every year, and often more than once a year, because of Listeria risk. The chances are, we'll have another one before 2013 finishes.


You could argue that it has something to do with the fact that L. monocytogenes is a very tough bacterium. It is cold tolerant (can survive and multiply in the refrigerator) and salt tolerant.

But the main reason is that the cold smoking process itself can be so easily messed up. If it isn't done very, very, carefully, the fish can end up being contaminated at one stage or another. There's a good description on the process and how contamination can happen in an article entitled "Safety of Cold Smoked Salmon," written by a Colorado State food science graduate student (in 2008 - but the information hasn't changed). Check out:

You shouldn't underestimate this tiny Listeria bacterium. An estimated 20-30 percent of foodborne listeriosis illnesses in high risk people can be fatal.

To your good health,


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