About 76 million Americans this year will suffer from food-borne illness, and at least 5,000 will die. That’s according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Most families try to avoid this by eating healthy foods, but that’s not enough – Debra Holtzman, JD, MA, a nationally recognized safety and health expert, warns that there are hidden dangers in even the healthiest of foods.
Holtzman has a list of tips for safer eating that can be easily followed:
1. Lettuce: Holtzman recommends that you discard the outer leaves, separate the inner leaves, and wash thoroughly. All raw produce has the possibility of coming into contact with manure or irrigation runoff, and can harbor disease-causing bacteria. This does for organiz fruits and vegetables as well.
2. Water: The Environmental Protection Agency recommends that private water supplies such as private wells and streams be tested at least once a year for contaminants. Public water utilities send out a consumer confidence report once a year.
3. Raw sprouts: All sprouts (alfalfa, clover, radish) have been associated with salmonella and E. coli. Cooking thoroughly will kill the bacteria.
4. Unpasteurized juices, milks, or cheeses: Always purchase pasteurized versions, since that is what kills the bacteria. Unpasteurized versions have been linked to salmonella, E. coli and listeria, and can all lead to death.
5. Moldy peanuts: Check carefully for discoloration and/or mold. Mold on products such as peanuts, wheat, cereals, and corn create aflatoxins, which have been found to cause liver cancer.
6. Raw or undercooked shellfish: Shellfish must be cooked thoroughly. Any animal protein, no matter where it comes from, has an increased potential for contamination and resulting illness.
7. Swordfish, shark, mackerel and tilefish: The FDA advises children and women who are pregnant, nursing, or planning to get pregnant to avoid these fish. These fish have much higher levels of methyl mercury than other fish, and can be harmful to the developing brains of unborn children and young children – affecting cognitive, motor and sensory functions.
8. Caesar salad: Many recipes for caesar dressing call for raw eggs, which should be avoided. If this is in a restaurant, make sure to ask.
9. Honey: Never give honey to a baby under the age of one. The bacteria spores in honey can cause infant botulism, that affects the nervous systems of babies.
10. Wild mushrooms: Only eat mushrooms you’ve purchased in a grocery store – only specialists can distinguish edible mushrooms from those that are not.
Holtzman, an attorney, has a master’s degree in Occupational Health and Safety, and has nearly two decades of experience in safety and health. She is the safety expert on the Discovery Health Channel’s popular show “Make Room for Baby”, and her book “The Safe Baby: A Do-it-yourself Guide to Home Safety” (Sentient Publications, 2005) is in bookstores everywhere.