With Halloween fast approaching, it would seem the perfect time to worry the masses.
Researchers from the Center for Science in the Public Interest (“CSPI”), for instance, have just compiled nearly twenty years of CDC data, and used it to create a list of the riskiest foods to consume. In turn, some major news outlets, including CNN, quickly publicized the findings. Click on the following link to view the CSPI Study.
The study attempted to determine the relative risk of select foods by examining the frequency of past food-borne illness outbreaks associated with each. The findings, ironically, are nearly identical to the Food Guide Pyramid, which tells us what, and how much, food we should eat in order to stay healthy.
In any event, according to the CSPI study, the ten most risky foods are as follows:
- Leafy Greens: 363 outbreaks (13,568 reported cases of illness);
- Eggs: 352 outbreaks (11,163 reported cases of illness);
- Tuna: 268 outbreaks (2341 reported cases of illness);
- Oysters: 132 outbreaks (3409 reported cases of illness);
- Potatoes: 108 outbreaks (3659 reported cases of illness);
- Cheese: 83 outbreaks (2761 reported cases of illness);
- Ice Cream: 74 outbreaks (2594 reported cases of illness);
- Tomatoes: 31 outbreaks (3292 reported cases of illness);
- Sprouts: 31 outbreaks (2022 reported cases of illness); and
- Berries: 25 outbreaks (3397 reported cases of illness).
The implied lesson from the findings seems to be that we should, in order to minimize our risk of getting sick, avoid eating fruits, vegetables, dairy products and seafood. In turn, it would seem, a diet which consists strictly of beef, chicken and candy would be exactly what the doctor ordered.
In my view, scaring people away from certian foods doesn’t help promote food safety. And, warning people not to eat fruits and vegetables may be a bit short-sighted. Leafy greens, for instance, are served in virtually every single salad and on every single sandwich; that translates to nearly a billion safe servings every single day. The same is true for other foods on the list, including countless fruits and most vegetables.
So, in twenty years, we have less than 14,000 reported cases of people getting sick from leafy greens? You do the math. This is really no different than arguing that visiting the grocery store (to buy your produce) is an inherently dangerous activity because, every so often, someone trips.
Moreover, in my house, it is not what you eat that determines the risk, but rather who made it. My father, for instance, didn’t stop at just cooking our food. He cremated it. In this regard, most foods we enjoy are perfectly safe when properly handled and cooked to a thousand degrees centigrade (or, 160 degrees fahrenheit as recommended by FSIS).
In any event, recognizing that nothing in our world is without risk, I’ll continue to take my chances with a healthy diet and tasty food. And, despite its safety record, the candy can wait until Halloween. For now, I’m going to go eat a salad.