Every year, foodborne illnesses sicken 48 million people in the U.S., hospitalizing 128,000 of them and killing 3,000 of them, according to estimates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Food-safety lawyer Bill Marler has represented victims in nearly every foodborne illness outbreak in the U.S. over the past 20 years, including recent outbreaks traced back to Costco and Chipotle Mexican Grill, Bottom Line Health reports.
Marler tells Bottom Line Health there are several foods commonly associated with such outbreaks he will never eat. He lists six:
- Unpasteurized (“raw”) milk and packaged juices
- Raw sprouts
- Meat that isn’t well-done
- Pre-washed or pre-cut fruits and vegetables
- Raw or undercooked eggs
- Raw oysters and other raw shellfish
Here are four of them in more detail:
Unpasteurized milk and juice
One of Marler’s earliest cases stemmed from the 1996 E. coli outbreak from unpasteurized Odwalla apple juice.
Unpasteurized, or “raw,” milk or juice can be contaminated with bacteria like E. coli that cause foodborne illnesses. But the process of pasteurization — heating a liquid to a certain temperature for a certain length of time — kills harmful bacteria, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
All types of uncooked or undercooked sprouts can cause sicknesses that stem from bacterial contamination of their seeds, Bottom Line Health reports.
As recently as 2014, the FDA sourced multistate outbreaks of E. coli, salmonella and listeria to sprouts or sprouted seeds.
While Marler does eat cooked sprouts, he says of raw sprouts:
“There have been too many outbreaks to not pay attention to the risk of sprout contamination. Those are products that I just don’t eat at all.”
Prewashed or precut fruits and vegetables
Marler is unequivocal on this topic: “I avoid these like the plague,” he says of things like bagged salads, adding that the risk of food contamination grows the more often a food is handled and processed.
In addition, listeria can quickly grow on produce — whether precut or not — even if it is kept in the refrigerator. So, Marler advises you to eat produce within three to four days.
Meat that is not well-done
Marler orders burgers well-done, noting:
“The reason ground products are more problematic and need to be cooked more thoroughly is that any bacteria that’s on the surface of the meat can be ground inside of it. If it’s not cooked thoroughly to 160 degrees Fahrenheit throughout, it can cause poisoning by E. coli and salmonella and other bacterial illnesses.”
Marler orders steaks medium-well — after asking whether they have been needle tenderized, in which case he orders them well-done.
This common restaurant practice involves piercing steak with needles or slicing it with knives to break down the muscle fibers. The process makes steak more tender but can also transfer bacteria from the surface to the inside of the meat.
To learn more about how to avoid harmful bacteria from foods, check out “7 Keys to Dodging Deadly Bacteria That Lurk in Your Food.”
Are there any foods that you never eat? Let us know which foods and why below or on Facebook.