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Magazine Cautions Against 10 ‘Dirtiest’ Foods

The popular Men’s Health magazine is the latest to weigh in with a list of dangerous foods, along with information on how to increase their safety if you are still inclined to eat them.

The Men’s Health list includes the 10 most often contaminated foods that are likely to be popular with its readers. The magazine claims to have looked at incidents of foodborne illnesses by the various carriers in order to come up with the list of the 10 dirtiest.  The list includes:

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– Chicken

– Ground beef

– Ground turkey

– Raw oysters

– Eggs

– Cantaloupe

– Peaches

– Prepackaged lettuce

– Cold cuts

– Scallions

Men’s Magazine reports that 200,000 people are sickened per day, according to official estimates by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta.  

But it says New York University’s Philip Tierno, author of “The Secret Life of Germs” figures the true rate is about 800,000 a day when sickness to every food virus, bacteria and toxin is counted.

This list of dirtiest foods is far from unique.  Various publications and organizations have in recent years come up with their lists of the “most dangerous” foods and ingredients.  

Time Magazine carried the “Top 10 Most Dangerous Foods” from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which listed the hot dog as the number one danger because of the possibility that children will choke on them.

The Organic Consumers Association targeted sodium nitrite, Hydrogenerated oils, and Excitotoxins as the three most dangerous ingredients.  And there are many other examples.

Asked to comment on the Men’s Health list, Dr. Richard Raymond, USDA’s former Under Secretary for Food Safety, said he personally avoids sprouts, raw ground chicken, and raw milk.  

Raymond said rather than just scallions, he’s careful about onions in general and other things that grow close to the ground like spinach.  He does not worry about cold cuts or peaches.

In its rundown of the dirty 10, Men’s Health provides background on the danger, along with advice on what to do to mitigate it at both the supermarket and at home.

Some of the magazine’s information is a little dated, and there’s nothing much new for food safety advocates.  Still, for its young, mostly male readers, Men’s Health provides spot on advice.

Briefly here’s what it has to say about:

Chicken:  Calls for a Surgeon General’s warning label for high percentages of Campylopbacter jejuni and Salmonella enteriditis contamination.  Advises buying free range chickens and following careful rinsing and cooking instructions.

Ground Beef: Reports from testing for pathogens like Clostridium and Staphylococcus still too high.   Recommends buying irradiated ground beef and adding fresh oregano to burgers and meat loaf as hedge against E. coli.

Ground Turkey: Says it is the “foulest of the fowl” for contamination from Listeria, Campylobacter, Clostridium and Salmonella.  Advises getting organic turkey and at home and thinking of ground turkey as being contaminated.

Raw Oysters: Overblown as an aphrodisiac, oysters are also contaminated in high percentages. Buy carefully, and always cook throughly.

Eggs:  Eggs sicken 660,000 people a year and kill 300.  Buy pasteurized egg and check expiration dates.  Avoid raw or undercooked egg in omelets or in sunny-side up orders.  Store eggs in coldest part of refrigerator, not in the door.

Cantaloupe: FDA found that 3.5 percent of cantaloupes sampled carried Salmonella and Shigella.  Avoid melons with dents or bruising.  Scrub cantaloupes with dishwashing liquid and rinse under running water.

Peaches:  Exposure to pesticide use is too high.  Buy “USDA Organic” peaches.  Remove wax coatings that collect pesticides.

Packaged Lettuce:  When E. coli is found in prepared lettuce, it’s time to be careful, especially when claims of “triple washed” lull consumers into complacency.  Rinse carefully one leaf at a time before eating.

Cold Cuts:  Listeria thrives at cold temperatures, making it a threat in the deli.  Be wary about blades that can transfer bacteria if not cleaned completely. Adding mustard to sandwiches might help.

Scallions:  Green onions can provide a ride for any number of pathogens.  Best to avoid those kept at room temperature, and use blast setting when rinsing them off.

© Food Safety News
  • CANTALOUPES: The study discussed above was conducted in March of 2000 and included 164 samples taken in 13 states (AZ, CA, CO, FL, GA, IA, MD, NC, NY, OK, SC, TX, and VA). Of the 164 samples, only 5 tested positive for Salmonella and no specific state was named. This is alarming when you consider the very different growing conditions of the 13 states represented. California produces nearly 70% of the nations cantaloupes and more than 50% worldwide. After years of research and significant sampling by UC Davis, the presence of Salmonella in California cantaloupe growing regions has been shown to be virtually nonexistent. Let’s get our facts straight! Below is the link to the FDA’s study.
    http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodSafety/Product-SpecificInformation/FruitsVegetablesJuices/GuidanceComplianceRegulatoryInformation/ucm118306.htm

  • Eric Gingerich, DVM

    Where in the wide world do you get your information???? Eggs are not responsible for one death in the US much less 300!!!! 660,000 illnesses?? I don’t think so!

  • JedV

    @Eric Gingerich, DVM
    Men’s Health Magazine is such a reputable source! :p

  • Theresa Kentner

    I took that 660,000 illness statement to be world wide. But the article as posted isn’t written clearly.
    The statements to add mustard to prevent Listeria and adding oregano to ground beef as a hedge against E.coli sound less than scientific.