Saturday, January 1, 2011

10 Foods Most Likely to Make You Sick

1. Leafy greens
2. Eggs
3. Tuna
4. Oysters
5. Potatoes
6. Cheese
7. Ice cream
8. Tomatoes
9. Sprouts
10. Berries

They found that:
  • Leafy greens involved in 363 outbreaks and 13,600 reported cases of illnesses. Eggs, involved in 352 outbreaks and 11,163 reported cases of illness.
  • Tuna, involved in 268 outbreaks and 2,341 reported cases of illness.
  • Oysters, involved in 132 outbreaks and 3,409 reported cases of illness.
  • Potatoes, involved in 108 outbreaks and 3,659 reported cases of illness.
  • Cheese, involved in 83 outbreaks and 2,761 reported cases of illness.
  • Ice cream, involved in 74 outbreaks and 2,594 reported cases of illness.
  • Tomatoes, involved in 31 outbreaks and 3,292 reported cases of illness.
  • Sprouts, involved in 31 outbreaks and 2,022 reported cases of illness.
  • Berries, involved in 25 outbreaks and 3,397 reported cases of illness
Below are the top 10 riskiest foods overseen by the FDA.

The number of outbreaks are totaled since 1990, so you can figure the odds.

1. LEAFY GREENS: 363 outbreaks involving 13,568 reported cases of illness. Salads and other leafy greens such as lettuce, endive, spinach, cabbage, kale, arugula or chard, account for 24 percent of all of the outbreaks linked to the FDA Top Ten. E. coli accounts for 10 percent of all outbreaks in leafy greens; Norovirus, which is commonly spread by the unwashed hands of an ill handler or consumer was linked to 64 percent of the outbreaks in leafy greens. Salmonella was responsible for nearly 10 percent of the outbreaks.

2. EGGS: 352 outbreaks involving 11,163 reported cases of illness. As in the recent outbreak leading to the recall of millions of dozens of eggs, the overwhelming majority of illnesses from eggs are associated with Salmonella. Regulations for cleaning and inspecting eggs were implemented in the 1970s and have reduced salmonellosis caused by external fecal contamination of egg shells. However, Salmonella enteritidis, the most prevalent type of Salmonella in eggs today, infects the ovaries of otherwise healthy hens and contaminates the eggs before the shells are formed. Notably, final regulations that require the adoption of controls aimed at minimizing Salmonella enteriditis in egg production were issued in July 2009 (and will become effective in 2010 or 2012, depending on producer size), after over a decade of inaction by the federal government. Half of all egg outbreaks occurred from restaurants and other food establishments.

3. TUNA: 268 outbreaks involving 2341 reported cases of illness. Scombroid, the illness caused by scombrotoxin, was by far the most common cause of illness related to tuna dishes, affecting over 2300 people who were reported to have been sickened. Fresh fish decay quickly after being caught and, if stored above 60F degrees, begin to release natural toxins that are dangerous for humans. Adequate refrigeration and handling can slow this spoilage, but the toxin cannot be destroyed by cooking, freezing, smoking, curing, or canning.

Symptoms of scombroid poisoning can include skin flushing, headaches, abdominal cramps, nausea, diarrhea, palpitations, and loss of vision.

In addition to scombrotoxin, Norovirus and Salmonella caused illnesses related to tuna consumption, affecting nearly 1000 people. Over 65 percent of outbreaks linked to tuna occurred in restaurants.

4. OYSTERS: 132 outbreaks involving 3409 reported cases of illness. Though they comprise a trivial part of the American diet, tainted oysters are the fourth entry in the FDA Top Ten, responsible for almost 2000 reported illnesses. Not surprisingly, the majority of outbreaks from oysters occurred in restaurants.
Illnesses from oysters occur primarily from two sources: Norovirus and Vibrio. Although Norovirus in other foods is usually associated with improper handling during harvest or preparation, oysters can actually be harvested from waters contaminated with Norovirus. When served raw or undercooked, oysters can cause gastroenteritis, an inflammation of the stomach and small or large intestines.

Vibrio is a type of bacterium in the same family as cholera and can cause severe disease.

5. POTATOES: 108 outbreaks involving 3659 reported cases of illness. Potatoes, often in the form of potato salad, were linked to 108 outbreaks, with more 3600 consumers reported to have been sickened by spuds since 1990.

Potatoes are grown in the soil, but they are always cooked before consuming. Outbreaks are linked to dishes, like potato salad, that can contain many ingredients and also a broad range of pathogens. Salmonella is most common, associated with almost 30 percent of potato outbreaks. E. coli also appears in the potato category, accounting for 6 potato outbreaks.
Normally found in animal feces, the presence of Salmonella and E. coli in potato dishes could indicate cross contamination from the raw to the cooked ingredients or possibly from raw meat or poultry during handling and preparation. Shigella and Listeria monocytogenes also appear in outbreaks associated with potatoes. Shigella is easily transmitted from an infected person to a food product, and thus may indicate improper handling during preparation.

6. CHEESE: 83 outbreaks involving 2761 reported cases of illness. Cheese products were linked to 83 outbreaks that sickened thousands of consumers since 1990, making it number six of the FDA Top Ten. Salmonella was the most common hazard among cheese products.

Cheese can become contaminated with pathogens during the initial phases of production (curdling, molding, and salting), or later during processing. Most cheeses are now made with pasteurized milk, lowering the risk of contamination with milk-borne pathogens. However, as recently as August 2009, California officials warned consumers about eating Latin American-style cheeses (such as queso fresco, queso oaxaca, and others), which may be made by unlicensed manufacturers using unpasteurized milk that could contain harmful bacteria.

7. ICE CREAM: 74 outbreaks involving 2594 reported cases of illness. The largest ice-cream outbreak in history occurred in 1994, when a popular ice cream manufacturer used the same truck to haul raw, unpasteurized eggs and pasteurized ice cream premix. Contaminated with Salmonella en route to the plant, the premix was not pasteurized again before being incorporated into ice cream products. The result: thousands of people sickened in 41 states.

Soft ice cream can be a particular hazard to pregnant women and others who are more susceptible to listeriosis.

Almost half of all ice-cream outbreaks contained in CSPI’s database occurred in private homes. This is most likely due to the use of undercooked eggs in homemade ice cream.

8. TOMATOES: 31 outbreaks involving 3292 reported cases of illness. In 2005 and 2006, tomatoes were implicated in four large multistate outbreaks of Salmonella, sickening hundreds of people across the country. The most common hazard associated with tomatoes is Salmonella, which accounted for over half of the reported outbreaks. Salmonella can enter tomato plants through roots or flowers and can enter the tomato fruit through small cracks in the skin, the stem scar, or the plant itself. Once inside, destruction of Salmonella without cooking the tomato is very difficult. Norovirus was the second-most common hazard.

9. SPROUTS: 31 outbreaks involving 2022 reported cases of illness. Raw and lightly cooked sprouts have been recognized as a source of foodborne illness in the US since the 1990s. Since 1999, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and FDA have recommended that persons at high risk for complications of infection with Salmonella and E. coli, such as the elderly, young children, and those with compromised immune systems, not eat raw sprouts. Although FDA has provided guidance to sprout producers to enhance the safety of sprout products, these commodities are still causing problems.

10. BERRIES: 25 outbreaks involving 3397 reported cases of illness. In 1997, over 2.6 million pounds of contaminated strawberries were recalled after thousands of students across several states reported illnesses from eating frozen strawberries in their school lunches. Hepatitis A was the culprit, and contamination may have occurred through an infected worker at a farm in Baja California, Mexico.