With the release of the Center for Science in the Public Interest's list of the top 10 riskiest foods regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, you may be wondering what's left that is safe to eat and what to do to keep your family safe. According to the report, produce such as leafy greens and tomatoes, eggs, seafoods tuna and oysters, and ice cream are among the commonly eaten foods that have accounted for about 40 percent of all food-borne outbreaks due to FDA-regulated foods since 1990. The analysis did not include meat products, which are not regulated by the FDA.
Ironically, many of the foods on the top 10 list are "the most nutritious foods for us," says Sarah Klein, staff attorney with the food safety program at CSPI. And many figure high among favorites. "The problems of food-borne illness are so broad [that] it's not a matter of eliminating foods from diet," Klein notes. "The food industry and the FDA need to make sure that all of our food is safe."
To that end, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (S. 510), currently under consideration in the Senate, would put stricter standards into place for all food producers, including increased frequency of inspections, and would give the FDA stronger enforcement authority. The House of Representatives passed similar legislation in July. Until stronger rules are put in place, the folks at the CSPI offer a few tips:
Don't change your diet. "Continue eating a balanced and nutritious diet," Klein says. "We do not recommend that consumers change their eating habits."
Practice defensive eating. "Choose and handle your food carefully," Klein advises. Don't eat homemade ice cream containing raw eggs, for instance. Bypass the raw oysters. Washing produce, while helpful, doesn't completely eliminate the risk of contamination, but it's always a smart precaution to avoid using the same cutting board for your greens as you use for raw meat. One suggestion offered in the wake of a salmonella outbreak last year: Try cooking your tomatoes.
Use care in handling and preparing all parts of your meal, not just the items on the top 10 list. In the case of potatoes, for example, it's likely in many cases that the initial contamination was caused by some other component of potato salad, according to CSPI. In general, says Klein, "keep it cold, and cook it thoroughly."