The Centre for Science in the Public Interest has this month issued a report detailing findings from the US Food and Drugs Administration of the top 10 riskiest foods for causing illness.
1)LEAFY GREENS: 363 outbreaks involving 13,568 reported cases of illness
2)EGGS: 352 outbreaks involving 11,163 reported cases of illness
3)TUNA: 268 outbreaks involving 2341 reported cases of illness
4)OYSTERS: 132 outbreaks involving 3409 reported cases of illness
5)POTATOES: 108 outbreaks involving 3659 reported cases of illness
6)CHEESE: 83 outbreaks involving 2761 reported cases of illness
7)ICE CREAM: 74 outbreaks involving 2594 reported cases of illness
8)TOMATOES: 31 outbreaks involving 3292 reported cases of illness
9)SPROUTS: 31 outbreaks involving 2022 reported cases of illness
10)BERRIES: 25 outbreaks involving 3397 reported cases of illness
Since 1990 Salmonella was the highest occurring pathogen in the top 10 responsible for a third of these cases. But there were also outbreaks involving E-Coli, Campylobacter, Scombrotoxin, Norovirus and Vibrio.
Contamination arrives from various sources from packers with unwashed hands, using the wrong kitchen cutting boards to manure polluted water at the farm.
Salmonella enteritidis is the most common form of salmonella in eggs. The hens appear healthy but their ovaries are infected and therefore the eggs become infected before the shell is even formed. Regulations will come into force in 2010 and 2012 (depending on producer’s size) to help control this form of salmonella.
Scombroid illnesses are the most dominant associated with tuna. The fish decay quickly and release a natural toxin which multiplies at temperatures above 60f. Adequate refrigeration can prevent this but no cooking method can irradicate the toxin.
Norovirus and vibrio can occur in the waters where the oysters were harvested.
More than 40% of illnesses from the potato come from restaurants and food establishments, usually in the form of potato salads containing many different pathogens.
Salmonella is the main pathogen occuring sometime during the production cycle of cheese. Pasteurized milk has cut many cases but there are still some Latin American style cheeses produced with unpasteurized milk. Soft cheeses can contain Listeria and should be fully cooked or avoided by pregnant women and the elderly.
Salmonella, Staphylococcus and Listeria can all be found in ice cream. Most cases are found in people making ice cream at home caused by them insufficiently cooking the eggs through.
Again Salmonella is the main pathogen associated with tomatoes. While the plants are growing it can enter the tomato plant through the root system or the flowers. When harvested the virus can enter a tomoato through tiny cracks in the skin.
Raw sprouts grown from contaminated beans and seeds can cause Salmonella and E Coli and the warm and humid growing conditions encourage bacteria to multiply.
Cyclospora is a parasitic illness which requires antibiotics to clear it up, it occurs when fecally contaminated berries are ingested.
The incubation period for symptoms from food poisoning can range from one hour to 90 days. Most cases of food poisoning have an incubation period of between one and three days. The most common symptoms of food poisoning are nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Other symptoms of food poisoning include stomach cramps, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, a high temperature (fever) of 38°C /100.4°F or above, muscle pain and chills.
Even the highest standards of a three starred Michelin restaurant cannot be exempt from an outbreak of food poisoning as seen by British Chef Heston Blumenthal. Five hundred diners were struck down by Norovirus earlier this year and the Fat Duck restaurant closed down for two weeks after a batch of sewage contaminated oysters had been on the menu.
Photos courtesy of Flickr - Stuckincustoms, plasticate and chaseKR