The Riskiest FDA-Regulated Foods

  • Share
  • Read Later

Widespread recalls and horror stories about salmonella and E. coli outbreaks have become common fodder for news stories in the U.S. in recent years, and even worked their way into our collective pop culture — in the October following the 2006 E. coli outbreak in spinach, more than a few creative trick-or-treaters were dressed as huge bags of the leafy green, for example.

Yet, as a report released this week by the Center for Science in the Public Interest highlights, the serious health dangers posed by contaminated foods are nothing to take lightly.

By sifting through Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data collected from 1990 to the present, researchers determined that there were 10 specific foods regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) — which oversees some 80% of the total food supply — responsible for more than 1,500 distinct episodes of contamination and resulting illness across the U.S. Many, including potatoes, leafy greens, eggs, cheese and tomatoes, are staples in Americans’ diets.

And what’s more, they say, this may represent only a fraction of the full scope of the problem. Citing CDC estimates, the authors give the example that, “for each case of salmonellosis that is clinically diagnosed and reported to health officials, another 38 cases were unreported.”

The report highlights these problems to make the case that stricter FDA regulation is vital to protecting the American public from food-borne illness, and argue for Congress to pass food safety legislation by the end of the year. (The House bill passed this past July; the Senate bill is still in initial phases.)

So which foods are the most egregious offenders — or as the study points out, the most poorly regulated? Here is the breakdown:

Leafy Greens: 363 outbreaks (13,568 reported cases of illness)

Eggs: 352 outbreaks (11,163 reported cases of illness)

Tuna: 268 outbreaks (2341 reported cases of illness)

Oysters: 132 outbreaks (3409 reported cases of illness)

Potatoes: 108 outbreaks (3659 reported cases of illness)

Cheese: 83 outbreaks (2761 reported cases of illness)

Ice Cream: 74 outbreaks (2594 reported cases of illness)

Tomatoes: 31 outbreaks (3292 reported cases of illness)

Sprouts: 31 outbreaks (2022 reported cases of illness)

Berries: 25 outbreaks (3397 reported cases of illness)

What do you think? Does FDA regulation need an overhaul? How has food contamination — of everything from peanut butter and salsa to dog food — impacted your life?

0 comments
Sort: Newest | Oldest