Every day, more than 130,000 Americans are stricken with food poisoning. While the rates of some common food-borne bugs have declined, cases of Salmonella—the most common infection and leading cause of both hospitalization and death from food-borne illness—have risen by 10 percent since 2006, according to a new food safety report issued by the CDC on June 7. About 1.2 million Americans suffer bouts of Salmonella each year.
“The bottom line is that food-borne illness, particularly salmonella, is still far too common,” said CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden. One reason is that it can taint a wide range of foods, including meat, eggs, poultry, vegetables and nuts. One detail of the report highlights just how entrenched the pathogen is: New US standards to take effect next month call for “allowable contamination” of chicken at processing plants to be reduced to 7.5 percent from the current rate of 20 percent—hardly an assurance of safety. Here’s a look at seven of the riskiest foods for triggering serious health problems.
1. Leafy Greens: Greens like lettuce, escarole, endive, spinach, cabbage, kale, arugula and chard top a list compiled by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) of the riskiest foods regulated by the FDA.
2. Eggs: Eggs and egg products have been blamed for more than 350 outbreaks of food poisoning. Last year they sickened more than 50,000 Americans, leading to the recall of a half-billion eggs.
3. Hot Dogs: OK, you wouldn’t consider them a health food, but you may not know that hot dogs are hazardous to young kids.
4. Tuna: Mercury isn’t the only hazard. A naturally occurring toxin—a histamine-like chemical—can trigger a syndrome similar to an allergic reaction. Affected fish may have a peppery, bitter or metallic flavor.
5. Peanuts: In moderation, peanuts can be nutritious as they contain heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. However, they can be dangerous or deadly to about one percent of the population.
6. Potatoes: Outbreaks of illness are linked to potato salad.
7. Ice Cream: The largest ice-cream outbreak ever occurred in 1994 when a manufacturer transported raw eggs and pasteurized ice cream premix in the same truck.
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