The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a consumer watchdog group, recently released a controversial report on "The Ten Riskiest Foods Regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration." On the list were many healthy foods like leafy greens, tomatoes, and berries...According to CSPI, the following 10 foods accounted for "nearly 40 percent of all food-borne outbreaks linked to FDA-regulated foods" between 1990 and 2006:
1. Leafy greens: 363 outbreaks, 13,568 reported cases of illness
2. Eggs: 352 outbreaks, 11,163 reported cases of illness
3. Tuna: 268 outbreaks, 2341 reported cases of illness
4. Oysters: 132 outbreaks, 3409 reported cases of illness
5. Potatoes: 108 outbreaks, 3659 reported cases of illness
6. Cheese: 83 outbreaks, 2761 reported cases of illness
7. Ice cream: 74 outbreaks, 2594 reported cases of illness
8. Tomatoes: 31 outbreaks, 3292 reported cases of illness
9. Sprouts: 31 outbreaks, 2022 reported cases of illness
10. Berries: 25 outbreaks, 3397 reported cases of illness
Some point to the report as evidence that Congress needs to revamp its century-old food safety laws, while others criticize it for being inflammatory. Still others say it's just the tip of the iceberg. (Note: The study did not include meat like ground beef because that's regulated by the USDA rather than the FDA.)
Before anyone starts swearing off leafy greens, it's important to note that these foods themselves are not inherently risky. Rather, the culprit is contamination, which may occur at various points in the chain – on the farm, during processing and transport, in restaurants, and in private homes. We tend to feel less vulnerable when we grow our own food, buy unprocessed fruits and vegetables from local farmers we trust, and prepare our meals at home.
What do you think? Are you concerned about the safety of foods on the Top 10 or other ingredients?
• Read the full CSPI report: The Ten Riskiest Foods Regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (PDF)
Related: Holiday Meals: Food Safety Reminder!
(Images: Emma Christensen, Elizabeth Passarella, Flickr member cafemama licensed under Creative Commons)