- With an E. coli outbreak tied to romaine lettuce and an egg recall for fear of salmonella, food poisoning is on shoppers’ minds.
- Food poisoning expert Bill Marler has cut certain foods out of his diet after more than two decades as a foodborne-illness attorney.
- Here are eight foods he won’t eat, from uncooked eggs to bagged lettuce.
It feels as though the world is being bombarded by endless rounds of food poisoning outbreaks.
On Friday, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that Americans avoid any form of romaine lettuce. Earlier in April, more than 200 million eggs were recalled for fear that they could be contaminated with salmonella. And, in late March, a South African listeria outbreak was dubbed the largest of its kind after 189 people died and hundreds more were sickened.
Bill Marler, an attorney with a focus on food poisoning cases, has been watching the outbreaks closely.
With more than two decades working as a food poisoning advocate and attorney, there are some things that Marler has cut out of his diet. Marler has won more than $US600 million for clients in foodborne-illness cases – and become convinced that some foods aren’t worth the risk.
Here are the foods that this expert says scare him the most:
Precut or prewashed fruits and veggies
Marler says he avoids these “like the plague.”
Convenience may be nice, but because more people handling and processing the food means more chances for contamination, it isn’t worth the risk, he says.
For example, a 2010 study from Consumer Reports found “unacceptable” levels of bacteria that commonly cause food poisoning in about a third of the 208 salad bags tested.
As Business Insider’s Rebecca Harrington notes, that doesn’t mean these bacteria actually caused an illness– just that they had the potential to do so.
Marler told Business Insider that the idea that he would have to warn people against drinking unfiltered, untreated water didn’t cross his mind until this year.
“Almost everything conceivable that can make you sick can be found in water,” Marler said.
So-called raw water – even from the cleanest streams – can contain animal faeces, spreading giardia, an intestinal infection that includes symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhoea and results in roughly 4,600 hospitalizations a year.
E. coli, cholera, and hepatitis A, which led to 20 deaths last year in an outbreak in California, can also be spread through untreated water.
Sprout-related outbreaks are surprisingly common, with more than 30 bacterial outbreaks– primarily salmonella and E. coli – in the past two decades.
“There have been too many outbreaks to not pay attention to the risk of sprout contamination,” Marler says. “Those are products that I just don’t eat at all.”
Uncooked flour is at the other end of the spectrum – something most people see as harmless but that can actually spread bacteria, Marler says.
Citing a study in the New England Journal of Medicine,Consumer Reports said that from late 2015 to September 2016, 56 people in 24 states developed an E. coli infection from eating raw or uncooked flour.
Marler says that while most people think raw eggs are the biggest food-poisoning threat in cookie dough, the flour can also be a culprit. And you don’t even have to eat it – simply not washing your hands after getting uncooked flour on them can help spread E. coli bacteria.
Marler says he has seen more foodborne illnesses linked to shellfish in the past five years than in the two preceding decades.
The culprit? Warming waters, he says.
As global waters heat up, they produce microbial growth that can end up in the raw oysters that consumers slurp down.
Marler and President Donald Trump have at least one thing in common: They are ordering their steaks well done.
According to Marler, meat needs to be cooked to 160 degrees throughout to kill bacteria.
For anyone who remembers the salmonella epidemic of the 1980s and early ’90s, this is a no-brainer.
According to Marler, the chance of getting food poisoning from raw eggs is much lower today than it was 20 years ago. But he still isn’t taking any chances. However, earlier in April, the Food and Drug Administration on Friday announced a recall of 206 million eggs over salmonella-contamination concerns.
Unpasteurized milk and juices
A precursor to the raw-water trend was the movement encouraging people to drink “raw” milk and juices, arguing that pasteurization depletes nutritional value.
Marler says pasteurization is not dangerous – but raw beverages can be, as skipping the safety step means an increased risk of contamination by bacteria, viruses, and parasites.
“There’s no benefit big enough to take away the risk of drinking products that can be made safe by pasteurization,” he said.
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