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Just when you thought dairy and raw meat were more likely to get you sick, it turns out that produce may actually be the biggest culprit.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, produce is the culprit for about 50 percent of all foodborne illnesses. However, meat and poultry are only involved in about 22 percent of the cases, in comparison.
Recent research from the FDA has proven the risk unwashed produce can do for your health.
In one experiment, the Food and Drug Administration tested the bacteria existing in avocados and guacamole, later determining that E. coli and Salmonella were present in most of the samples. Furthermore, three out of the four subjects that tested positive for listeria came from domestic suppliers.
“The FDA also tested processed avocados and guacamole, because they’re low-acidic and pack a high moisture content, which make them ripe environments for bacteria to flourish,” explained Moneyish. Frequently, packaged avocado, whether frozen or fresh cut, does not undergo a “kill step” — washing or cooking to kill bacteria — before being consumed.
As a result, the CDC reported that there were 12 outbreaks of foodborne illnesses due to avocados from 2005 to 2015. Three of those outbreaks involved E. Coli, and nine Salmonella.
According to the FDA, herbs such as basil, parsley and cilantro were also responsible for many of the foodborne bacteria outbreaks. From 1996 to 2015, the FDA reported nearly 2700 illnesses due to nine foodborne outbreaks from these herbs.
Explained the study, “These herbs are also often eaten as part of multi-ingredient foods, and thus people may not report having eaten them when they become ill.” However, like avocados, these herbs are often eaten or used in food without having undergone a “kill step.”
Yet, food experts believe that this FDA testing has barely scratched the surface. “These are still relatively small samples they have tested, and they are going to test thousands,” explained Dr. Philip Tierno of NYU School of Medicine.
And with about half of foodborne illnesses happening at home, Tierno says that taking necessary precautions against these illnesses are important. Washing your hands, cleaning the produce and pat drying it with a paper towel can help prevent sickness.
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