Group Lists 10 Most Dangerous Foods

A variety of so-called healthy foods have topped a list of the 10 riskiest foods regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) just reported. The group pointed out that leafy greens, eggs, and tuna top the list and 10 foods are linked to 40 percent of all <"">food borne illness outbreaks connected with FDA-regulated foods.

Tomatoes, cheese, ice cream, sprouts, and berries also made the list, which, said the CSPI is why the United States Senate should pass legislation, as was recently enacted by the House, to reform food safety laws. The CSPI, a nonprofit advocacy group, wrote the report.

The FDA oversees produce, seafood, egg and dairy, and many packaged foods, making up about 80 percent of this country’s food supply, said the CSPI, which added that over 1,500 outbreaks were linked to the top ten foods and resulted in close to 50,000 reported illnesses. As we have long noted and as the CSPI also reported, most food borne illnesses go unreported.

“Outbreaks give the best evidence of where and when the food safety system is failing to protect the public,” said CSPI staff attorney and the report’s lead author, Sarah Klein. “It is clearly time for FDA’s reliance on industry self-regulation to come to an end. The absence of safety plans or frequent inspections unfortunately means that some of our favorite and most healthful foods also top the list of the most risky,” Klein added.

The CSPI complied data from its Outbreak Alert! Database, which includes information from 1990 to 2006, as well as data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CSPI made the following observations:

* 363 outbreaks were linked to iceberg lettuce, romaine, spinach, and other leafy greens that were contaminated with E. coli, Norovirus, or Salmonella, and resulted in 13,568 illnesses. Manure, contaminated irrigation water, or poor handling practices were all potential causes.

* Eggs were linked 352 outbreaks and 11,163 illnesses.

* Tuna was linked to 268 outbreaks and 2,341 illnesses.

* Oysters were linked to 132 outbreaks and 3,409 illnesses.

* Potatoes were linked to 108 outbreaks and 3,659 illnesses.

Also, said the CSPI, the FDA does not mandate farms and processors document food safety plans or specific safety standards for growers.

In July we wrote that just one day after the U.S. House shot down a bill meant to toughen the federal food safety system, the legislation passed the House under a rule that only required a minority vote. The originally proposed food safety bill failed earlier over fears its passage would overwhelm America’s small farmers.

Under the legislation, the FDA is to receive additional authority and resources for the prevention of food borne illnesses; grain and livestock producers are exempt from being required to pay registration fees and disallow the FDA from those areas in which the Agriculture Department (USDA) has responsibility. The FDA will step up inspections, order recalls, and mandate to companies how to maintain records, said the Wall Street Journal previously, explaining that the revised record keeping will better enable tracking when contaminations do occur. Most, not all, food companies will have to register with the FDA and pay a $500 annual per-facility fee.

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