The partial shutdown of the United States government is impacting the nation’s food supply. Routine inspections by FDA employees aren’t happening. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is running with a skeleton crew. Many communications workers across several agencies are on furlough, making it more difficult for the public to access information about food safety concerns. At this point, unfortunately, the public needs to take their health into their own hands, and avoid certain foods. Click through to check out some of the most potentially dangerous foods to avoid, or at least be more careful with, in the coming weeks.
1. Imported Seafood.
About 80 percent of seafood sold in the United States is imported from elsewhere. With random inspections of imported seafood down considerably during the shutdown, now it is more important than ever to take extreme precaution when consuming imported seafood.
The FDA frequently finds imported seafood with dangerous bacteria, excessive excrement, and even traces of illegal narcotics, adding offending companies to a list of “import alerts” Even during business as usual, they only inspect 1-2% of all imports, so you can certainly make the case that you should always avoid imported seafood. But what makes the current circumstances even more serious is that, during the shutdown, the FDA cannot add companies to the “import alerts” list.
If you must, eat domestic seafood — if you can find it. Domestic fisheries are struggling during the shutdown, too.
Government shutdown or not, tuna is the most dangerous seafood product. This is largely due to Scombrotoxin, a toxin that will stay in the fish even if it has been canned or cooked thoroughly. Though it’s advisable to always avoid eating tuna, with fewer inspections taking place during the shutdown, it is especially critical to avoid it now.
3. Imported Fruits and Vegetables.
You don’t have to completely swear off all imported fruits and vegetables, but, because there are fewer inspectors, unsafe produce is more likely to slip through the cracks. If you absolutely must have your papaya fix, wash and scrub your produce very well. Wash your knife and cutting board after cutting the fruit’s peel, because harmful bacteria can transfer from the knife back to the fruit. Avoid any fruit with noticeable bruising, scars or any other signs of decay.
Eggs are the second largest cause of food-borne illnesses, typically salmonella, in the United States. Be extra careful when making your breakfast: cook your eggs thoroughly, clean any utensils, dishes or surfaces that come into contact with raw egg, and avoid any foods with raw eggs.
5. Leafy Greens.
You might think that undercooked chicken or shady shellfish would be the biggest culprit of food poisoning. Not so. Food-borne illnesses are linked to leafy greens more than any other type of food. Between 1998 and 2008, according to published research, 2.1 million Americans became sick after eating spinach, kale and other leafy greens. It’s important to note, however, that, while leafy greens have caused more illness, more serious illnesses are linked to meat, poultry and dairy products. You might have an upset stomach from that raw spinach salad, but you’re less likely to end up in the hospital from it raw chicken.
If you don’t want to skip your daily dose of greens, make sure to wash them thoroughly, and, if you can, try to cook them as much as possible.