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Leafy Greens Top Risky Food List

Advocacy group notes illness outbreaks usually linked to 'healthy' foods

TUESDAY, Oct. 6 (HealthDay News) -- Leafy greens head a list of the top 10 riskiest foods regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, a report released Tuesday by a public advocacy group says.

The 10 types of foods included in the list account for nearly 40 percent of all foodborne illness outbreaks linked to FDA-regulated foods since 1990, according to the report from the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Unfortunately, the list includes some of the healthiest and most popular foods consumed by Americans, the report authors noted.

More than 1,500 separate, definable outbreaks that caused almost 50,000 illnesses were linked to these 10 foods, the report found. The illnesses ranged from gastrointestinal distress to long-term disability and death.

The report, based on U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, says the top 10 riskiest foods regulated by the FDA are:

  • Leafy greens: 363 outbreaks involving 13,568 reported cases of illness.
  • Eggs: 352 outbreaks with 11,163 reported cases of illness.
  • Tuna: 268 outbreaks with 2,341 reported cases of illness.
  • Oysters: 132 outbreaks with 3,409 reported cases of illness.
  • Potatoes: 108 outbreaks with 3,659 reported cases of illness.
  • Cheese: 83 outbreaks with 2,761 reported cases of illness.
  • Ice Cream: 74 outbreaks with 2,594 reported cases of illness.
  • Tomatoes: 31 outbreaks with 3,292 reported cases of illness.
  • Sprouts: 31 outbreaks with 2,022 reported cases of illness.
  • Berries: 25 outbreaks with 3,397 reported cases of illness.

Pathogens typically associated with meat and poultry -- such as salmonella and E. coli 0157:H7 -- have been repeatedly linked with outbreaks caused by these 10 types of foods. In fact, salmonella was the culprit in 33 percent of outbreaks involving the foods in the report. Along with salmonella and E. coli, other pathogens causing outbreaks associated with these foods include Campylobacter, Scombrotoxin, Norovirus and Vibrio.

The report noted that foodborne illness outbreaks are becoming more common in the United States because of a complex, globalized food system, outdated food safety laws, and the rise of large-scale production and processing.

In July, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill, backed by President Barack Obama, that would give the FDA expanded oversight of food producers. The bill would speed up the ability of health officials to track down the source of an outbreak and permit the government to mandate a recall, instead of having to rely on food producers to voluntarily pull tainted products from store shelves, according to the Washington Post.

The Senate is expected to take up its version of the bill this fall.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about foodborne illness.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: The Center for Science in the Public Interest, news release, Oct. 6, 2009

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