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Can You Kill Listeria In A Microwave?

Listeria is a bacteria that is commonly found in water, soil and animal feces. On top of that, it can also grow in rather cold temperatures such as those of a refrigerator. It is hard to get rid of the bacteria from contaminated foods, but cooking and pasteurization do kill the listeria bacteria. The bacteria can be termed as scary as once present in a group of similar products, then an outbreak can easily occur. Listeria commonly attacks people who are prone to risk factors such as pregnant mothers, people suffering from AIDSdiabetes as well as individuals with a weakened immune system.

Can You Kill Listeria In A Microwave?

Can You Kill Listeria in a Microwave?

Many people worry that a microwave cannot get rid of the bacteria, especially on ready-to-eat processed foods. Deli, meats, hot dogs, and luncheon meats are some of the common foods which can easily carry the bacteria, if they were processed out of contaminated meat. It is advisable that instead of eating them directly, they should be reheated until steaming hot. This can easily be achieved under microwave temperatures; however, they tend to cool off quickly. Well, it is safe to say that as long as these processed foods are heated above 165-degrees for approximately three minutes, there’s no need for concern. Nonetheless, for healthy individuals, the bacterium has little or no effect on them and can clear out on their own without causing health problems.

For other foods and drinks such as water that is suspected to be carriers of the bacteria, boiling or cooking at suitable temperatures or higher, is the best way to kill listeria. While heat does kill the listeria monocytogenes, cold temperatures have an opposite effect. In fact, they are a thriving factor for the growth of the bacteria. However, extremely cold temperatures – 4-degrees and below – slow down the growth of the bacteria, which immediately heightens once the temperatures rise. There are a number of home remedies you can apply to kill listeria. For example, use of sanitizer that contains ammonia or chlorine solutions, which you can use to clean kitchen surfaces you use for food preparation.

Clearly, only methods that use heat application can get rid of listeria. While cooking and boiling may be different from using a microwave due to the different use of the medium for heating, all methods can kill listeria. The argument however is based on the fact that under a microwave, the food is cooked with the same temperatures and time as would be used when boiling or cooking foods. Furthermore, provided that heat is evenly distributed and the food heats up nicely, bacteria should be the least of your worries.

Where Can The Listeria Monocytogenes Bacteria Be Found?

Unlike other food-poisoning bacteria, listeria can survive for many months in meat processing plants and even grow in cold freezing temperatures. It is a deadly wide-spread bacterium that can be found in different places including farms where crops are grown. Not to mention, the bacteria can also inhabit an animal or poultry’s body and survive without the animal showing signs of its presence. As a matter of fact, compared to other food-borne bacteria, listeria has caused the most deaths.

The common sources of listeria include; refrigerated pates, meat spreads, and smoked seafood, deli meats, luncheons meats, hot dogs, unpasteurized milk, raw meat, fruits as well as uncooked vegetables. The bacteria can also be found in soft cheese and Mexican-style cheeses that are manufactured using unpasteurized milk.


When it comes to killing bacteria in general, cooking and boiling are the best methods. However, even use of microwaves can kill bacteria. Some people may argue that a microwave is an inefficient way of killing bacteria, but the key is the right temperatures and the optimum time. While heating foods under a microwave for less than a minute can hardly kill all bacteria, two minutes or more are adequate to get rid of all bacteria. So, it is accurate to conclude that you can kill listeria bacteria using the microwave.


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Listeria (Listeriosis). https://www.cdc.gov/listeria/index.html
  2. United States Department of Agriculture. (2020). Shell Eggs from Farm to Table. https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/egg-products-preparation/shell-eggs-from-farm-to-table/CT_Index
  3. World Health Organization. (2020). Listeriosis. https://www.who.int/health-topics/listeriosis#tab=tab_1
  4. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (2021). Foodborne Illnesses. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/foodborne-illnesses
  5. United States Department of Agriculture. (2021). Listeria: Questions and Answers. https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/foodborne-illness-and-disease/listeria/listeria-questions-and-answers/
  6. Strawn, L. K., Fortes, E. D., Bihn, E. A., Nightingale, K. K., Grohn, Y. T., Worobo, R. W., & Wiedmann, M. (2013). Landscape and meteorological factors affecting prevalence of three food-borne pathogens in fruit and vegetable farms. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 79(2), 588-600. https://aem.asm.org/content/79/2/588
  7. Pricolo, V. E. (2020). Listeria Infection. In StatPearls [Internet]. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK544294/

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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 9, 2023

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