When you think of food poisoning, you think of chicken, beef, seafood, right? However, studies are showing that the top riskiest foods involve popular “healthy” foods. Over 40% of all food borne illnesses outbreaks are caused by foods that we normally think of as good for you. Everything on your grocery list – even the most innocuous food – must be shopped for and handled with care.
1- Leafy greens
Leafy greens like lettuce may not be properly clean i.e pre-washed salad mixes, harboring harmful germs. A truck not cold enough (in other words, the refrigerator on the truck may not be at 41°F, 5°C, during the entire trip from processor to the store) to transport salads is a truck where germs could start to grow. Since salads aren’t cooked, you could ingest germs just by opening the package and eating. This is not to scare you away from salad; it’s to let you know that it isn’t foolproof.
So how do you make sure it’s safe?
Start with smart buying. Check both the dates and the quality of the packaging. If buying lettuces that are not considered ready to eat, make sure to look for good heads.
Next, make sure to wash all lettuces properly before you eat them. The best practice is to wash everything. Those lettuces in the bag should also be washed, just to be sure. Don’t just dump it into your salad bowl. Studies are showing that washing everything is still safest.
Finally, don’t let salads sit out too long. If germs, like E-coli, are present (and you must assume they are), they may be able to start growing while the greens sit out on the buffet table all evening. If your salad sits out longer than two hours, discard the food.
Salmonella Enteritidis is a bacteria found on many eggs. It’s not unusual. These bacteria come from the inside of the hen herself.
All eggs are washed at the farm before shipping – which cuts down on the number of outbreaks – but the bacteria sometimes still slips through. As with chicken meat, proper cooking will make eggs safe. Consuming undercooked eggs, such as sunny side up eggs or Eggs Benedict (which is usually an undercooked egg on a muffin and in Hollandaise sauce), is a higher risk.
If you’re cooking breakfast for a large group, don’t leave the raw eggs sitting out at room temperature. And if you are cooking for venerable populations, never serve raw or partially cooked eggs. Don’t use cracked eggs.
Mercury occurs naturally in the environment and accumulates in the aquatic food chain, including fish, as methyl-mercury. All fish contain some methyl-mercury, but most fish in Australian waters have very low mercury levels.
Mercury content is not reduced by processing techniques such as canning, freezing or cooking.
The following fish have low mercury levels and are also high in omega-3 fatty acids:
Canned salmon & canned tuna in oil
Other seafood with low mercury levels include:
All prawns, lobsters and bugs
All squids and octopus
Salmon and trout
These fish can be eaten more frequently, up to two to three times per week.
Canned tuna & salmon
It is generally safe for all population groups, including pregnant women, to consume 2-3 serves of any type of tuna or salmon a week, canned or fresh.
Canned tuna usually has lower mercury levels than other tuna because tuna used for canning are smaller species that are caught when less than one year old.
Bivalve shellfish species (oysters, mussels and clams) feed by filtering large volumes of water. If the
shellfish are living in water which contains microbiological or chemical contaminants, or natural toxins,
they will concentrate this material in their gut. As people normally eat shellfish raw, and without
removing the gut, they are likely to become ill if product is harvested from contaminated areas
Potato salad is one of the most popular dishes at picnics and parties. But it can also carry germs like Shigella and Salmonella. If cooked potatoes are not cooled down properly, germs can grow in them for extended periods of time. Couple these improperly cooled potatoes with mayo or oil, and you have a perfect breeding ground for germs to go nuts in before you put it all into your stomach.
Salmonella poisoning can cause vomiting, diarrhea (including bloody diarrhea), and fever. Shigella symptoms are usually diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain, chills, feeling “out of sorts,” headache, and fever.
Also green potatoes contain a natural toxin called solanine. The greenish hue that should warn you away from such spuds is actually chlorophyll, but its presence indicates concentrations of solanine are present in the tuber.
This bitter poisonous crystalline alkaloid is part of the plant’s defenses against insects, disease, and predators. Potato leaves and stems are naturally high in glycoalkaloids, so ingestion of these parts of the plant must be avoided at all costs.
There are several reasons why cheese makes the top ten, so let’s break it down to explain.
- The process of making most cheese involves injecting GOOD bacteria into the other cheese ingredients. While these strains of germs may not make us sick, there is always a chance that other germs (like Salmonella) may sneak in, too.
- The making of cheese takes time – in some cases, a long time. As a result, if the cheese picks up a strain of bad bacteria, the bad stuff can have more than enough time to grow.
- Many cheeses come from countries that do not always have the same food safety or inspection standards that Australia has.
How do you make cheese safe? Many cheeses are not cooked, so you don’t have the kill-germs-through-cooking opportunity that you have with many other foods. People who are in a high risk category should not eat imported cheeses.
In addition, keep cheeses (and other proteins and high risk foods) cold. We’ve outlined proper storage practices here.
If you’re pregnant, you should avoid soft cheeses like brie and camembert.
7 Ice Cream
It’s too bad! This tasty treat can bring with it some dangers, like Salmonella and Staphylococcus. The largest outbreak of ice cream illness was caused by a truck that carried a load of unpasteurized dairy products, and subsequently a load of pasteurized dairy products, without proper cleaning and sanitation between loads. As a result, the pasteurized milk (destined to become ice cream) was contaminated by the germs in the unpasteurized milk.
The study claims that many cases of food borne illness start with under-processed and/or unpasteurized dairy products that some people prefer to use at home. For instance, ice cream made at home may require raw egg yolks.
The tomato has been getting a bad rap recently, both justifiably and unjustifiably. Not long ago, tomatoes were blamed for a Salmonella outbreak, when the bad guys were really serraños (hot peppers) and jalapeños. However, raw tomatoes have been responsible for some outbreaks, mostly caused by restaurants.
You don’t want Salmonella in your BLT, because you may end up with vomiting, diarrhea (including bloody diarrhea), and fever.
Salmonella is often traced back to the raw tomato; even though the tomato’s acidic level is often at a range that most bacteria don’t like, Salmonella is able to live on sliced or cut tomatoes. In the past, many restaurants would let tomatoes sit on the counter, giving any Salmonella that might be present a chance to grow. Tomatoes are now deemed a potentially hazardous food (PHF/TCS food in restaurant terms), and restaurants must abide by stricter rules when they use them. When you prepare any raw tomatoes in your home, make sure to refrigerate them right away to keep Salmonella from growing.
The problem with bean (or alfalfa or other) sprouts is that the bean itself may be damaged or contaminated. Germs can come in contact with a bean either in handling or in processing, and pass themselves on to the sprout. E-coli and Salmonella are the most frequent guest visitors to bean spouts.
Vomiting, diarrhea (including bloody diarrhea), and fever are some of the milder symptoms of Salmonella poisoning. E-coli symptoms include watery diarrhea, severe abdominal pain, bloody diarrhea, and occasionally a fever.
The safest sprouts are cooked ones, but many salad bars (as well as many Chinese dishes) serve or use them raw or partially cooked. The best practice at home is to cook them. When you purchase spouts, make sure they are cold when you pick them up. If they are not, they may have been growing germs while waiting to be purchased. In addition, check the sell-by or use-by date to ensure that you are purchasing fresh spouts.
Believe it or not, Hepatitis A can be in the berry you bite into. Where does it come from? From berry pickers who may not wash their hands properly . Since fresh produce comes into grocery stores year-round, we may also be receiving food from parts of the world where food safety standards are not as high.
Flu-like symptoms, jaundice (yellowing of eyes or skin, which can mean internal issues), vomiting, fever, and abdominal pain can be signs of Hepatitis A. The biggest issue is that a person infected with Hepatitis A can infect others, even if he/she doesn’t demonstrate symptoms. And an infected person who doesn’t wash hands properly after using the restroom is even more dangerous.
Cyclospora are also nasty visitors to berries. This parasite lives in untreated water; since berries have high water content, they may actually be living inside the berries. When you bite into a fresh berry, you consume the live parasite, which now lives off you as its host long enough to make you sick.
As with all produce, washing berries properly will help remove anything on the outside of the berry. However, only in season and from local farmers can be much safer for you than taking a risk with other berries.