As the government shutdown drags on, more effects of the lack of federal regulation will become apparent. One overlooked sector is the food industry, as about half of the Food and Drug Administration’s employees are not considered “essential” enough to remain on the job during the shutdown. Thus, until the government reopens, the FDA has suspended many of its food safety inspections.
Granted, most citizens can continue to purchase food without a large risk of getting sick. However, the Center for Science in the Public Interest recently published a report on the ten riskiest foods that are evaluated by the FDA. These foods, which are the most cited as causing illness, are risky in normal functioning conditions, so it is assumed that there may be a heightened risk associated with consuming these foods as long as the FDA remains ineffective. Here is a list of foods to avoid, from the least to the most risky:
Most cases with berries involve a pathogen that causes an upset stomach. Even under normal circumstances it is recommended to thoroughly wash fruit, so now is the time to be extra cautious.
Sprouts may harbor E. coli or Salmonella, as seeds can be contaminated before growing in the warm, humid climates where sprouts are cultivated.
Tomatoes can be contaminated with pathogens through breaks in their skin or via their root systems. It is suggested consumers thoroughly cook tomatoes before consumption, although 70% of reported illnesses were contracted from tomatoes at restaurants.
7. Ice Cream
Past outbreaks have been a result of mixing ice cream with raw, unpasteurized eggs. One form of bacteria associated with illness in ice cream can also survive on metal surfaces, an extra danger in ice cream shops.
Cheese is also prone to the same pathogens as bad ice cream and can also be contaminated with Salmonella. Soft cheeses have a higher risk with certain bacterial strains.
Blaming the potatoes for your food poisoning? It's not the potatoes themselves that cause illness. Rather, it's usually what the potatoes come into contact with after they are removed from the ground. They could also be contaminated by other ingredients in recipes like potato salad.
Seafood is infamous for food-related illness, and oysters are especially risky. They may be from contaminated waters, or contain a more dangerous bacteria which causes serious symptoms including fever, chills or even death for someone with a compromised immune system.
Tuna is the most dangerous of all seafood in cases of food poisoning. Illness is not the result of bacteria or a virus, but a toxin from tuna decaying when it is not properly refrigerated after being caught. It leads to severe stomach pains and is not remedied by cooking or canning the tuna.
Salmonella is the most common bacteria associated with egg-related food poisoning. The bacteria can survive in intestinal tracts of chickens, but any danger can be avoided by cooking eggs well.
1. Leafy Greens
Greens account for the most outbreaks of illness since they are rarely cooked at temperatures high enough to kill bacteria. Viruses and bacteria in leafy greens are usually spread when handlers with contaminated hands touch them during transportation.
The report warns that symptoms of consuming bad batches of these items range from stomach cramps for a day or two to kidney failure or death. While inspections are shut down, consumers might benefit from being extra cautious when purchasing these items.