Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Dirty Foods

“The more serious the illness, the more important it is for you to fight back, mobilizing all your resources-spiritual, emotional, intellectual, physical.”
- Norman Cousins

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 200,000 Americans experience food poisoning every day. This number could be as high as 800,000, according to Philip Tierno, author of The Secret Life of Germs. "Everyone in this country will get sick at least once this year from a foodborne virus, bacteria, or toxin," he says. But we may not know it and blame the mild symptoms—nausea, diarrhea, cramping—to a stomach flu.

Where do these germs come from? MensHealth.com identifies the “10 Dirtiest Foods.”  I’ll cover some highlights but be sure to read the entire article for all the details.

1. Chicken: Don’t be fooled by commercials of Perdue chickens enjoying a good life. Most chickens are raised in very dirty coops under crowded conditions. As a result, one in 10 chickens carry germs that can make you ill. To protect yourself
- Buy free range chickens which are raised (supposedly) in cleaner environments
- Do not wash chickens or chicken parts in the sink. This spreads the germs to anything that touches the sink. Instead put the chicken directly into a pan/pot and let heat kill the germs.
- Chicken should be cooked to a temperature of 180°F. Use a thermometer – don’t trust the color of juice when pricked.
- If the chicken touched a cutting board, clean the board and knife with a mild, diluted bleach solution.

2. Eggs: pasteurization has reduced the risk of dirty eggs to 1 in 200,000. But given the millions of eggs consumed in America, eggs sicken an estimated 660,000 people annually and kill 300.
- Only buy pasteurized eggs.
- Never use a cracked egg in a carton.
- Store eggs in the coldest part of your fridge (not in the fridge door).
- Wash your hands after handling eggs.
- Cook eggs to 160°F

3. Hamburger: In one USDA test, 53% of the ground chuck examined was infected with Clostridium perfringens which can cause illness.
- Buy beef that is "treated by irradiation" to kill germs
- 1 Tbsp. of Fresh oregano can kill E. coli in one pound of beef
- Cook beef to 160°F

4. Fresh fruit – because most fruit is eaten raw, any germs on the outside will not be killed by cooking. For example, Cantaloupe grows on the ground and has a netted exterior that makes it easy for Salmonella to sneak on; and once on it's hard to clean off.
- Clean the exterior of all fruits prior to eating. Wash your hands afterwards.
- Washing fruits will also remove any pesticides that were sprayed on.

5. Fresh vegetables : my mother is paranoid about washing lettuce. She grew up on a farm and has seen how dirty field conditions are for the produce and the workers. You also want to wash spinach and scallions thoroughly..
- "Just because something is wrapped in cellophane doesn't mean it's free of pathogens." Don’t be lulled by claims of being "triple washed."

6. Deli Meats: cold cuts have been labeled "high risk" of causing listeriosis by a joint team of researchers from the USDA, FDA, and CDC. The Listeria germ grows rapidly on cut meat even with ideal refrigeration; and then the cold cut is eaten without further cooking. The most likely source of Listeria-contaminated cold cuts is the deli slicer. Without regular cleaning, the blade can transfer bacteria from roast beef to turkey to pastrami and back.
- Toss any meat that is a week old
- Slather on the mustard. Researchers found that mustard killed off 90 percent of three potent pathogens—Listeria, E. coli, and Salmonella—within 2 hours.

Bottom Line

We like to think the food we buy is clean but the truth is that it’s not. The advice above will help prevent some common sources of illness.

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