- More than 60 people have been sickened, including at least 30 who have been hospitalized, in a salmonella outbreak linked to contaminated fresh-cut melon.
- After more than two decades as a foodborne-illness attorney, food-poisoning expert Bill Marler says there are some items he never buys – and that includes fresh-cut fruit.
- Here are eight foods Marler won’t eat, from uncooked eggs to bagged lettuce.
Another food poisoning outbreak is sweeping the United States.
On Sunday, the Food and Drug Administration announced it was investigating a salmonella outbreak that has sickened at least 60 people in eight states. More than 30 people have been hospitalized due to illness.
The culprit behind the sicknesses is contaminated melon. On Friday, Caito Foods LLC recalled fresh-cut watermelon, honeydew melon, and cantaloupe that had been distributed in Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, and Ohio.
Retailers selling the contaminated melons include Costco, Walmart, and Whole Foods.
As an attorney with a focus on food-poisoning cases, Bill Marler has been avoiding cut fruit for some time. Marler has won more than $US600 million for clients in foodborne-illness cases, and in the process, he’s become convinced that some foods aren’t worth the risk.
Pre-cut fruit and veggies
Pre-cut fruit, like the melon at the center of the current salmonella outbreak, is at the top of Marler’s list of foods to avoid.
The process of pre-cutting and packaging produce is a “great way to multiply bugs,” he told Business Insider. Convenience may be nice, but because more people handling and processing the food means more chances for contamination, it isn’t worth the risk.
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, in April, the FDA 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.
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.