Earlier this month the Center for Science in the Public Interest issued a list of the 10 riskiest FDA regulated foods with a few surprises. The foods on this list represent 40% of all the food borne pathogen outbreaks since 1990. What this means is that these foods have caused illness (in significant numbers) in those that consumed them.
The most dangerous food to eat according to CSPI is by far the most surprising: leafy green vegetables. Yes, you read correctly…leafy green vegetables. This includes lettuce, spinach, arugula, escarole, endive, spring mix, cabbage, kale, and chard. The reason the leafy greens hold the number one position is because it has been the cause of 363 outbreaks of food related illnesses. Supposedly green leafy vegetables have high concentrations of pathogens because of contamination (contact with wild animals, manure, and impure water) occurring on the farm. Once contaminated, these vegetables are a fertile surface for the bacteria to grow. It is even suspected that the washing process these vegetables undergo may help the pathogens grow instead of eliminating the problem.
The irony of leafy greens being “public enemy number one” is that they also hold the number one position of being the healthiest food to grace the dinner table. Green leafy vegetables are ideal for weight management (low in calories) and are known to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer (low in fat, high in fiber, and rich in Vitamin C, folic acid, potassium, and magnesium). These vegetables are high in anti-oxidants, have been found to lower the risk of diabetes, and have been found to increase bone health. With so many health benefits, it’s shocking to find out that the leafy greens have the potential to be so deadly.
Another shocker is the food that holds the fifth position on CSPI’s list: potatoes. Despite being one of America’s versatile and favorite foods, it graces the list because of the 108 outbreaks traced back to tainted potato salad. Apparently the potato by itself is quite innocent. It is when it is mixed with other more perishable ingredients it becomes a playground for pathogens.
Ice cream comes in at number 7. This delicious frozen treat made the top 10 because of an outbreak that involved a manufacturer using the same truck to hall unpasteurized eggs and ice cream. But, had this incident not occurred, ice cream would have still been considered risky…at least in its soft form. Soft ice cream has proven to be a hazard because of a particular pathogen that survives on metal surfaces like the interior of soft serve ice cream machines.
Holding the number 8 position are tomatoes. Tomatoes have been associated with Salmonella outbreaks. Apparently, Salmonella can enter the tomato through the roots and flowers. The pathogen can also enter the fruit through small cracks in the skin or the stem scar.
Other surprising entries are sprouts (#9), cheese (#6), and berries (#10). Eggs (#2), tuna (#3), and oysters (#4) are not so surprising since everyone has known for a long time that undercooked eggs and seafood can lead to a whole host of food poisoning outbreaks.
So, what does this mean to you? Not much. CSPI created this list to drive changes to the FDA food regulations through Congress. The average consumer can continue to eat these foods as long as he/she uses some common sense. Make sure to thoroughly wash all fruits and vegetables before eating. Cook your food completely before eating. And, store perishables in the refrigerator in air tight containers.
Labels: dangerous food