To live, we need to eat! It’s a basic concept to you and I, but the problem sometimes lies in fact that we’re eating…but what we’re eating could get us sick. Not in the, “I ate waaaaay too much pizza” sick side, but the “What did this touch?” side. To make sure you won’t be making any extra trips to the bathroom at night, here are a few foods that could go for another spin in the salad spinner:
~Leafy Greens: Although leafy greens, like spinach, romaine lettuce and arugula, pack a nutritional punch, they also rank at the top of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI’s) list of riskiest foods. Instead of buying pre-bagged lettuce—which includes leaves culled from thousands of different heads of lettuce, any of which could be contaminated—buy one head of lettuce or a three-pack of romaine hearts and prepping it yourself.
~Eggs: To protect yourself and (especially) any small children or elderly adults in your household, make sure to refrigerate eggs as soon as possible. But this isn’t the only way to reduce your risk when it comes to eggs; if you like them undercooked (over-easy, soft-boiled or poached) you may want to reconsider how you prepare them. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture(USDA), eggs should be cooked until the yolk and white are firm; egg dishes should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160°.
~Fresh Tuna: To decrease your risk, purchase tuna from a reputable seafood supplier—whether that’s a highly-regarded restaurant or local fish monger—and making sure to “keep raw tuna stored at a temperature of 40° or less until just before cooking.”
~Oysters: “Don’t purchase or eat oysters from the Gulf Coast region or oysters that are coming out of warmer waters.” When served or sold raw, oysters should be marked with the region of origin. If it’s unclear or not indicated, ask your waiter or store’s fish monger.
~Potatoes: Potatoes were responsible for 108 outbreaks involving 3,659 reported cases of illness between 1990 and 2009—most commonly salmonella and E. coli. The problem, say experts, isn’t the potatoes themselves, but the dishes they are used in. The most common culprit is potato salad, which people often don’t store properly. “It needs to be transported in a cooler with ice packs or kept in the refrigerator until just before serving. And if you’re going to serve it at a buffet, serve it on ice.” She also recommends using store-bought mayonnaise instead of homemade if you’re going to transport and serve it. “It’s less likely to get bacteria,” she says. A similar problem occurs with mashed potatoes and baked potatoes. “If they are allowed to sit around warm, they can grow foodborne illnesses. You need to cool them down, eat them quickly or keep them at a hot enough temperature.”
~Cheese: Cheese accounted for 83 outbreaks involving 2,761 reported cases of foodborne illness from 1990 to 2009. However, you can greatly reduce your risk of sickness by simply avoiding unpasteurized and raw milk cheeses (usually bought in specialty shops). “Once purchased, most cheeses should be stored in the refrigerator either in the original bag or in an air-tight food storage container. Soft cheeses [feta, Brie, Camembert, etc.] and shredded cheeses should not be left out or stored at room temperature for more than two hours; discard if left out past two hours.”
~Ice Cream: More than half the time, ice cream that causes outbreaks is linked to private homes, so it’s most likely people making their own ice cream with raw eggs and/or raw milk,” Klein says. To protect yourself, Klein recommends making ice cream with pasteurized eggs, which you can get in the shell or in liquid form.
~Tomatoes: To reduce your risk of exposure, Dr. Schaffner suggests always washing tomatoes before use, and slicing them on a disinfected cutting board—not one that’s used to for meat or dairy. Any leftover sliced tomatoes should be promptly refrigerated.
~Sprouts: If you do choose to consume them raw, Dr. Adams Hutt suggests looking for signs that they have been improperly handled, such as wilted or soggy sprouts. “There are regulations and good practices the processors follow, but you’ve also got to pay attention and look for signs of spoilage,” she says. “And make sure you wash them and keep them cool once you get home.”
~Berries: “Whether picking berries in the field or buying them at a grocery store, it’s important to keep them cold and get them home and stored in your refrigerator within two hours.” Berries should be placed in their own separate sealed container in the refrigerator and stored on a shelf above raw meats to avoid cross-contamination. Before you eat them, “they should be thoroughly washed under a stream of cool running water,” Luptowski adds.
~Meat and Poultry: You should always use a thermometer when cooking meat to determine whether it has reached a safe internal temperature, as noted by the USDA. Beef, pork, lamb, and veal steaks, chops and roasts should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 145°; ground meats (beef, pork, lamb and veal) should be cooked to 160°; and chicken and turkey, including ground varieties, should be cooked to 165° before consumption.