The relationship between the number of ingested Listeria monocytogenes cells in food and the likelihood of developing listeriosis is not well understood.
Data from an outbreak of listeriosis linked to milkshakes made from ice cream produced in 1 factory showed that contaminated products were distributed widely to the public without any reported cases, except for 4 cases of severe illness in persons who were highly susceptible. The ingestion of high doses of L. monocytogenes by these patients infected through milkshakes was unlikely if possible additional contamination associated with the preparation of the milkshake is ruled out.
This outbreak illustrated that the vast majority of the population did not become ill after ingesting a low level of L. monocytogenes but raises the question of listeriosis cases in highly susceptible persons after distribution of low-level contaminated products that did not support the growth of this pathogen.
Infectious dose of listeria monocytogenes on outbreak linked to ice cream, United States, 2015
Emerging Infectious Diseases, December 2016, Volume 22, Number 12, https://dx.doi.org/10.3201/eid2212.160165