NEW YORK—A controversial new study that lists the ten riskiest foods to your health is being lashed out against by those in the food industry.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest says these ten foods, in the order of the risk they represent, are among the riskiest for making you sick: Leafy greens, eggs, tuna, oysters, potatoes, cheese, ice cream, tomatoes, sprouts and berries.
Scientists rated the foods by the number of outbreaks associated with them since 1990, and the number of recorded illnesses. For instance, leafy greens like lettuce have had 363 outbreaks linked to them from 1990 to 2006.
You might remember September 2006, when bagged baby spinach tainted by E. Coli bacteria sickened some 200 people and left three dead in 26 states. But other veggies like sprouts and potatoes, and fruits like berries and tomatoes made the list because scientists say they are grown close to the ground and can be tainted by water runoff, as well as the fact many are processed with pathogens in their leaves, and if they aren't cooked, can be difficult to wash bacteria off of.
But the Produce Marketing Association disagrees with putting them on the list, saying it is committed to providing safe produce and is working with the FDA and CDC to create "food safety solutions to help safeguard public health" and that "fruits and vegetables are necessary for better health."
But the backlash really came strong from the seafood industry after Tuna and Oysters were added to the list. The study said unrefrigerated fresh tuna deteriorates quickly and relases harmful toxins. They also said that when you mix-in ingredients like mayo with canned tuna, you're creating even more risk, and oysters, well, if they aren't washed right, you could be looking at a case of Norovirus.
The executive director of the American Blue Fin Tuna Association disagrees with what he calls the study's "bad rap" on tuna. He says tuna is "one of the healthiest foods on Earth" and says the FDA mandates tuna be gutted and stuffed with ice immediately after it's caught, and submerged in slush once it gets to shore to prevent risk of pathogens.
But the National Fisheries Institute was even more scathing the study in their statement, saying "Seafood is a safe and healthy product that is an essential part of the American diet. CSPI has a history of attempting to scare consumers by playing fast and loose with definitions that might lead the casual reader to think people are getting sick left and right from seafood...Consumers should take this report with a grain of salt and a heaping helping of perspective."
All the foods listed in the study are regulated by the FDA, and when it comes to cheese and ice cream, the National Milk Producers Federation says the report is woefully out of date because the study places much of the weight on ice cream for instance, on a 1994 outbreak that sickened thousands of ice cream lovers in 41 states.
"Cheese and ice cream products are among the safest, most stringently regulated foods in this country. The cheese examples in this report mostly concern consumption of raw milk products, which neither F-D-A nor the dairy industry recommends. The ice cream example is 15 years old and was an isolated incident. U-S- dairy products have an excellent food safety record."
The center says the foods they listed were a part of more than 1,500 outbreaks overall, and close to 50,000 people either got sick with something as minor as a stomach ache, or died. The CSPI also believes most food-related illnesses don't get treated or report, so they say the real total is likely much larger.