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Study Says Leafy Greens Top Food Poisoning Source

Health & Wellness  (tags: leafy greens, food poisoning, veggies, poultry, diseases, death, salmonellas )

- 1932 days ago -
A big government study has fingered leafy greens like lettuce and spinach as the leading source of food poisoning, a perhaps uncomfortable conclusion for health officials who want us to eat our vegetables.

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Angelika R (143)
Saturday February 2, 2013, 1:49 pm
"Most meals are safe," said Dr. Patricia Griffin, a government researcher and one of the study's authors who said the finding shouldn't discourage people from eating produce. Experts repeated often-heard advice: Be sure to wash those foods or cook them thoroughly.

While more people may have gotten sick from plants, more died from contaminated poultry, the study also found. The results were released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Each year roughly 1 in 6 Americans — or 48 million people— gets sick from food poisoning. That includes 128,000 hospitalization and 3,000 deaths, according to previous CDC estimates.

The new report is the most comprehensive CDC has produced on the sources of food poisoning, covering the years 1998 through 2008. It reflects the agency's growing sophistication at monitoring illnesses and finding their source.

What jumped out at the researchers was the role fruits and vegetables played in food poisonings, said Griffin, who heads the CDC office that handles foodborne infection surveillance and analysis.

About 1 in 5 illnesses were linked to leafy green vegetables — more than any other type of food. And nearly half of all food poisonings were attributed to produce in general, when illnesses from other fruits and vegetables were added in.

It's been kind of a tough month for vegetables. A controversy erupted when Taco Bell started airing a TV ad for its variety 12-pack of tacos, with a voiceover saying that bringing a vegetable tray to a football party is "like punting on fourth-and-1." It said that people secretly hate guests who bring vegetables to parties.

The fast-food chain on Monday announced it was pulling the commercial after receiving complaints that it discouraged people from eating vegetables.

Without actually saying so, the CDC report suggests that the Food and Drug Administration should devote more staff time and other resources to inspection of fruits and vegetables, said Michael Doyle, director of the University of Georgia's Center for Food Safety.

Earlier this month, the FDA released a proposed new rule for produce safety that would set new hygiene standards for farm workers and for trying to reduce contact with animal waste and dirty water.

Meanwhile, CDC officials emphasized that their report should not be seen as discouraging people from eating vegetables.

Many of the vegetable-related illnesses come from norovirus, which is often spread by cooks and food handlers. So contamination sometimes has more to do with the kitchen or restaurant it came from then the food itself, Griffin noted.

Also, while vegetable-related illnesses were more common, they were not the most dangerous. The largest proportion of foodborne illness deaths — about 1 in 5 — were due to poultry. That was partly because three big outbreaks more than 10 years ago linked to turkey deli meat.

But it was close. CDC estimated 277 poultry-related deaths in 1998-2008, compared to 236 vegetable-related deaths.

Fruits and nuts were credited with 96 additional deaths, making 334 total deaths for produce of all types. The CDC estimated 417 deaths from all kinds of meat and poultry, another 140 from dairy and 71 from eggs.

Red meat was once seen as one of the leading sources of food poisoning, partly because of a deadly outbreak of E. coli associated with hamburger. But Griffin and Doyle said there have been significant safety improvements in beef handling. In the study, beef was the source of fewer than 4 percent of food-related deaths and fewer than 7 percent of illnesses.

Sue Matheson (79)
Saturday February 2, 2013, 2:07 pm

Fiona O (565)
Saturday February 2, 2013, 3:49 pm
This is bad news. For so long I had the comfort of growing most of my fruits and vegetables. Now I live in a city. Those were halcyon day and I took it all for granted.

Angelika R (143)
Saturday February 2, 2013, 3:57 pm
Betsy, they are still save but of course you need to WASH it very well! We had similar warnings here, not quite that intensive though, but I continued consuming fruits and veggies, could never do without them.! I just wash them longer now, just in case. And I believe the nutritious parts in them overweigh the possible bad stuff that might be in or on them.

Animae C (516)
Saturday February 2, 2013, 7:00 pm
i was going to comment & then realized you've said exactly what i was going to say Angelika.

mag.w.d. Aichberger (34)
Saturday February 2, 2013, 9:10 pm
Da BLAME GAME, season three, episode one (unless i've missed some) -- brought to you by - easy-to-guess...


. (0)
Sunday February 3, 2013, 10:15 am
Now you understand why I cook my own food. Leafy green vegetables are good for 1 - 2 days tops. They are not meant to be irradiated or left out in the salad section of the all you can eat line either. Wash your vegetables and wash your hands. Think about "eating out" like eating food that has been expectorated on in some or another by as many people passing through on the way to checkout at any given time.
BTW it is actually quite rude and unhealthy to be standing over my food when I'm eating it. If I wanted you to know what I was eating I would tell you. Until I do....

Angelika R (143)
Sunday February 3, 2013, 11:24 am
Exactly! Thx Michael for your great comment!

Mary Donnelly (47)
Sunday February 3, 2013, 1:39 pm
Thanks for useful post. I, too, agree with Michael Kirkby.

Lois Jordan (63)
Sunday February 3, 2013, 1:49 pm
Thanks for the great info, Angelika. I thought it was "funny" when there was a big push by media to eat broccoli...and some time soonafter, there was broccoli food poisoning. This has happened with chicken, turkey, and other veggies as well. So, is the problem that there was suddenly a big demand, and more food went unchecked because we're not funding the oversight of proper regulations? Just wondering.....

Angelika R (143)
Sunday February 3, 2013, 2:02 pm
Lois, looks like you have that correct. People should just follow their common sense, wash (or cook/fry) real well and eat what they believe is healthy and good for them. Unless really bad poisoned by some-hopefully rare!- incident I think all veggfies still do you more good than harm.

Winn Adams (179)
Sunday February 3, 2013, 2:37 pm

Bobby A (4)
Sunday February 3, 2013, 4:47 pm
Thanks for posting. Any food item can be potentially dangerous if not handled correctly. I enjoyed the article and still plan to have a salad with my meal tonight. I know my "chefs" are safe! Have a blessed day and keep up the good work.

Past Member (0)
Sunday February 3, 2013, 5:32 pm
I always worry about this which is why I always say wash the veggies very very carefully or purchase such things organically..I mean one really doesn't need to purchase organic bananas due to the fact we don't eat the skin, but when it comes to vegetables that hold the dirt/chemicals in them in small spots it might be worth the few extra costs.

JL A (281)
Sunday February 3, 2013, 9:47 pm
Given that spinach was one of the first ones to really capture headlines, the top of the list isn't a surprise.

Past Member (0)
Monday February 4, 2013, 5:19 am

Sam E M (0)
Monday February 4, 2013, 6:13 am
That's not very encouraging, but don't let it put you off your leafy greens. Care in washing and cooking should provide a safeguard (we hope).
Thanks, Angelika, interesting read.

Lloyd H (46)
Monday February 4, 2013, 6:36 am
Thanks. I do have two big problems with the article. At no point does it mention that the CDC, USDA and FDA would love to actually do their jobs and increase Food Safety in the US unfortunately at every opportunity the Anti-Regulation Anti-Government Repug/Tea Bagged in the US and State governments cut their budgets and limit their legal authority.
The other problem is that Food Poisoning and Food Born Illnesses are not the same thing. Although unfortunately Food Poisoning it seems is now being used for both. Food Born Illness indicates the presence of a bacteria, virus etc. that causes an illness, hospitalization or death. Food Poisoning indictates illness, hospitalization or death due to the presence of toxic substances, insecticide, herbicide, rodent poison, chemicals etc.

Brad Kraus (6)
Monday February 4, 2013, 7:22 am
Thanks for the article and thanks to Lloyd H. for the great explanation of Food Born Illness vs. Food Poisoning. Another reason I buy from a local grower whenever possible so I can know how it was grown and handled.

paul m (93)
Monday February 4, 2013, 7:55 am

Wash everything,,,,,

Autumn S (151)
Monday February 4, 2013, 8:16 am
Thanks for the article, I so much agree with Michael!

Angelika R (143)
Monday February 4, 2013, 10:53 am
I also want to add my thanks to Lloyd for the eloquent explanation. And as fr your other "big problem" (smile ;)), while it's not pointed out that those responsible would "love to do their jobs", it is mentioned though that funds for this are not or not sufficinetly provided(as Lois J. also suggested)
Thank you all for your comments!

Sergio Padilla (65)
Thursday February 7, 2013, 2:40 pm
Just wash your veggies!!! So what?

Melania Padilla (122)
Friday February 8, 2013, 10:06 am
There is no reason to stop eating veggies... Wash them!!!
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