The list of risky foods that are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) comes from the usually reliable public interest group, Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).
The list includes leafy greens, tomatoes, eggs, seafood such as tuna and oysters, and ice cream.
Those foods alone account for about 40 percent of all food-borne outbreaks among FDA-regulated foods over the last 19 years involving 50,000 reported illnesses.
That number is likely underreported. Health experts agree most cases of foodborne illness are never reported.
The CSPI issed its Top Ten list from its collected data, Outbreak Alert! Database, which began in 1990.
Meat is not regulated by the FDA, but by the Department of Agriculture, and has accounted for many cases of bacterial contamination. The FDA regulates nearly 80 percent of our food supply.
In July, the House passed a Food Safety Enhancement Act that would give the FDA authority to require food processors to design and implement food safety standards and would require FDA inspections. Similar legislation is pending in the Senate.
CSPI is urging the Senate to follow the house and pass legislation that reforms our “fossilized food safety laws” that largely allow the industry to regulate itself.
Leafy greens - have been tied to 363 food-borne outbreaks and more than 13,500 reported cases of illness since 1990, reports the CSPI. E. coli, Norovirus and Salmonella bacteria live in the gut of mammals and likely come from poor handling of food and irrigation water contaminated with manure from farm animals. Large growers, processors and farms are not required by the FDA to have a written food safety plan. Included are lettuces of all kinds, cabbage, kale, spinach and chard. In 2006, bagged spinach contaminated with E. coli 0157:H7 caused several deaths. Chlorine washes can help reduce contamination. Avoid using a cutting board for both greens and raw meat.
Eggs – Salmonella enteritidis can cause an infection in the ovaries of hens which are then passed on in their eggs. New regulations will go into effect either next year or in 2012 depending on the size of the egg producer. More than 11,000 illnesses have been linked to eggs.
Tuna - US News and World Report says tuna is responsible for 2,341 illnesses mostly coming from scombrotoxin, which comes for keeping fish too warm after it is caught. Fish must be stores above 60 degrees or it releases natural toxins that can cause stomach cramps, headaches, nausea, loss of vision, and diarrhea. Tuna is often found contaminated with methylmercury. Salmonella and Norovirus are also found in tuna. About 65 percent of outbreaks involving tuna occur in restaurants, says CSPI.
Oysters – More than 3,000 illnesses were attributed to oysters, mostly occurring in restaurants and caused by a Norovirus bacterium called Vibrio. It can affect those with a compromised immune system and can cause severe disease and chronic liver disease.
Potatoes – are often found in potato salad and were linked to 3,659 cases of illness among 108 outbreaks. Most of the illnesses were associated with salmonella and involved foods made in delis and restaurants or supermarkets.
Cheese- Especially soft cheeses such as Brie, feta, Camembert, are responsible associated 2,761 illnesses may contain Listeria bacterium which has been linked to miscarriages.
Ice Cream - Nearly half of the outbreaks from ice cream came from home-made ice cream that contains undercooked eggs. Listeria can live on metal surfaces so may present a risk to pregnant women who consume soft serve ice cream. Avoid home-made ice cream with raw eggs.
Tomatoes – 31 outbreaks involving nearly 3,300 reported cases of illness. Cooking tomatoes will kill bacteria.
Sprouts - 2.022 reported cases of illness and 31 outbreaks have been reported to the FDA. The CDC and FDA recommend people with a high risk for complications of infection such as the elderly, young, and those with compromised immune systems, not eat raw sprouts. Sprouts can be contaminated by Salmonella and E. coli in the field and during storage.
Berries – Nearly 3,400 reported cases of illness involved in 25 outbreaks in this latest entry into the FDA Top Ten list. Berries include strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries. In 1997, more than 2.6 million pounds of contaminated strawberries were recalled after students were sickened in their school lunch by Hepatitis A. Berries from Guatemala and Chile have been implicated in a five-state outbreak of Cyclospora.
Salmonella was the culprit identified in 33 percent of the outbreaks among the Top Ten. Other pathogens involved include Campylobacter, Scombrotoxin, Norovirus, and Vibrio.
Even with implementation of the food safety plan, the FDA would not be required to visit high-risk plants any more than once a year. #