It’s Summer time! So we should be eating lots of fresh tomatoes, tuna salads, fresh vegetables, leafy spinach salads peppered with handfuls of bean sprouts and finish the meal with a healthy plate of fresh berries, right? Wrong! Read on…
A test was conducted on foodstuffs in a kitchen after an outbreak of salmonella food poisoning which left dozens of people ill. Was it the seafood, the eggs, the fish, the meat or the salad? It was the salad. Studies reveal that what people perceive as the “healthiest” foods may in fact be the most dangerous.
Everydayhealth.com has compiled a list of the top ten rogue foods responsible for food poisoning. Top of the list of the study conducted by the Center for Science in the Public Interest and published in everydayhealth.com* is leafy green vegetables such as lettuce and spinach. According to the FDA reports on cases of food poisoning from 1990 to 2006, this was the main source associated to 363 outbreaks and 30 per cent of all foodborne illnesses.
The reason: blood from meat dripping into the vegetable bin and contamination with meats washed in the same sink – or salads prepared last on chopping boards after the seafood, meat and fish have been prepared. Plus, green leaves are often eaten unwashed.
Second, predictably, are eggs (352 outbreaks), where salmonella is the main culprit. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for every one case of salmonella reported, 38 cases are not. Experts say that a simple test, placing an uncooked egg in water and throwing it away if it floats, can avoid most cases of infection, as can cooking the egg until the yolk is hard.
Number three – fish; namely, tuna salad (268 outbreaks). Scombrotoxin, resistant even to cooking, can build up if the fish is not refrigerated properly after being caught; tuna is followed by oysters (132), which being eaten raw pose more of a risk, mainly through two sources of infection: norovirus or vibrio.
At number five comes potatoes (108), not from the tuber itself but due to cross contamination in potato salads (mayonnaise). Responsible for 83 outbreaks, cheese is number six on the list, mainly through unpasteurized cheeses such as feta, camembert and brie (more likely to be infected with Listeria, according to the report) which is the reason why pregnant women are advised to avoid soft cheeses, due to the fact that they are twenty times more like to succumb to this illness.
Number seven: ice cream (75 outbreaks). Salmonella and staphylococcus bacteria are the main causes of infections – in 1994 thousands of people across 41 states became ill with salmonella from a batch of ice cream.
Places eight, nine and ten in the list are surprisingly occupied by tomatoes (salmonella, getting into the druit through its root system or norovirus entering through damaged skin); bean sprouts (e.coli and salmonella flourish in the warm and moist environments in which they grow) and finally, berries (Hepatitis A virus, Cyclospora parasite infection).
Food safety experts recommend the 5 Cs: clean, cook, combat cross contamination, chill…and fundamentally, use your common sense.