First of all, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention don’t want you to get all freaked out about the foods you eat, just because it’s releasing a report on the foods responsible for sickening the most people. It’s just an attempt to help regulators improve food safety. That being said, leafy greens like lettuce, spinach and kale are the most popular culprits, dairy products were responsible for the most hospitalizations and the most deaths were linked to poultry.
Those numbers are from between 1998 through 2008, notes USA Today, adding that the CDC really doesn’t want consumers to see this information as a “risk of illness per serving list.”
That’s according to Patricia Griffin, the expert at the helm of the CDC’s food-borne disease division. She was the senior author on the report and explains that the stats are just supposed to help improve the food industry overall.
“The vast majority of meals are safe,” she said, which means you can’t void eating your vegetables by saying the CDC told you so (or because of mean old Taco Bell). “Eating them is so important to a healthy diet. They’re linked to reduced risk of heart attacks, stroke and cancer.”
The study appears in the journal Emerging Infectious Disease and checked out 4,887 outbreaks that caused 128,269 illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths, in cases where the food that caused them were known or suspected.
Leafy greens were blamed for 23% of illnesses whereas dairy products only caused 14%. But when it gets into hospitalizations, things get switched up. Dairy is the culprit in 16% of hospitalizations, leafy greens caused 14% and poultry 12%. However poultry wins the dubious title of accounting for the most deaths at 19%, compared to dairy at 10%.
Griffin adds there’s no need to fear dairy, as most of the outbreaks linked to those products involved unpasteurized milk and cream, and most Americans go for the pasteurized products anyway.
It’s good to keep consumers informed on this information but even more so for government agencies and others who want to improve the overall safety in the food industry.
To cut down on your risk of catching something from food, always make sure meat is thoroughly cooked and leafy greens are carefully washed before you eat them. Avoiding raw milk or other raw food products is also advisable if you’re concerned about falling ill.
CDC: Beware the leafy green, poultry and dairy [USA Today]