With recent food-borne illness outbreaks linked to alfalfa sprouts and romaine lettuce, the Center for Science in the Public Interest has re-released its list of what the group calls the top 10 riskiest foods regulated by the FDA, based on cases of illness reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to the report, these foods account for nearly 40% of all food-borne outbreaks since 1990. The nearly 50,000 reported illnesses ranged from temporary gastrointestinal distress to long-term disability and death. However, since most illnesses aren't reported to the proper authorities, the report states that “the outbreaks included here represent only the tip of the iceberg.” Though not, it would seem, the iceberg lettuce. Turn the page for the list.
1. Leafy greens: 363 outbreaks involving 13,568 reported cases of illness
2. Eggs: 352 outbreaks involving 11,163 reported cases of illness
3. Tuna: 268 outbreaks involving 2341 reported cases of illness
4. Oysters: 132 outbreaks involving 3409 reported cases of illness
5. Potatoes: 108 outbreaks involving 3659 reported cases of illness
6. Cheese: 83 outbreaks involving 2761 reported cases of illness
7. Ice cream: 74 outbreaks involving 2594 reported cases of illness
8. Tomatoes: 31 outbreaks involving 3292 reported cases of illness
9. Sprouts: 31 outbreaks involving 2022 reported cases of illness
10. Berries: 25 outbreaks involving 3397 reported cases of illness
We've heard about E. coli in spinach, Listeria in sprouts and Salmonella in as much as two-thirds of store-bought chicken (according to a January Consumer Reports study)–but dirty potatoes? Contaminated ice cream? Filthy tuna?
Ice cream can be contaminated with Staphylcoccus, Listeria and Salmonella–which are not killed by freezing. Most potato illnesses are linked to dishes with a lot of ingredients–some carrying E. coli, Shigella, Listeria and Salmonella–such as potato salad. Scombroid, the illness caused by scombrotoxin, was the most common illness related to tuna–scrombrotoxin being a toxin released by decaying fish.