This Food-Prep Practice May Save Your Life

  • You don’t have to be one of the 48 million Americans that suffer from a preventable illness this year
  • This unsuspecting type of bacteria-laced food  is probably in your fridge right now
  • Rewashing the pre-washed may not be such a bad idea after all.

Dear Reader,

Last week, I became very confused when I got to the produce section of my local grocer.

Once I passed by the pre-chopped veggies and mushrooms, I found an empty space in the refrigerated case where all of the pre-washed bags of salad usually are.

Since Baltimore was gearing up for Snowzilla, I just assumed it was part of the pre-blizzard food-hoarding madness.

However, I do recall finding it bizarre and thinking to myself, Bagged salad is an interesting choice for blizzard food.

Once I got home and looked at the news, I realized the lack of salad sacks wasn’t due to them being snatched up by worried consumers with the snow jitters but rather to having been taken off the shelves due to a recall.

As you may have already heard, the most recent foodborne illness outbreak in the U.S. is due to Listeria bacteria in bagged salads.

Listeria can cause infections that affect the gastrointestinal tract and have symptoms of fever, diarrhea, nausea, stiffness, aches, headaches — and even death.1 So far, is outbreak has taken only one life, but foodborne illnesses take many lives every year.

In fact, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates nearly 1,600 Americans suffer illness and 260 die annually due to Listeria infections.2

These might seem like small statistics for such a country of almost 319 million, but the dangers of foodborne illness aren’t limited to just Listeria.

In reality, there are several types of bacteria that can cause foodborne illnesses, and the leading source of these stomach-churning contaminants may shock you.

Today, I will share the first line of defense in reducing your foodborne illness exposures.

First let’s find out a little bit more about what can make you sick and how it finds its way on to our plates.

There Is More to be Scared of than Chicken

Per the CDC, 48 million Americans suffer annually from a foodborne illness. Of these 48 million, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die.3

These stats are a little more alarming than those for Listeria alone.

If you’re like me, your brain probably went straight to poultry, eggs, beef, and dairy.

And who can blame us? It is very common to hear about the dangers of salmonella (typically found in poultry and eggs) and E. coli (found in beef) on the news or from a family member.

You may remember a parent, a partner, or even a teacher telling you to never eat raw cookie dough because of salmonella poisoning. Or to always be sure to order a well-done steak and not a rare burger so you don’t get E. coli or mad cow disease or Creutzfeldt-Jakob in humans.

In fact, according to David Plunkett, senior food safety attorney for the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), “You are twice as likely to get sick from eating a serving of chicken as from eating a serving of vegetables.”4

So your mom was right about those about avoiding those raw eggs and making sure to clean up after handing raw chicken.

But meat, eggs, and dairy products aren’t the only players in the food poisoning game — produce is too.

And the chances of produce making you sick increases when it is in the same areas as meats, poultry, and dairy.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you should stop eating produce.

Fruits and vegetables are the cornerstone of a healthy and vitamin-rich diet. They are essential to complete nutrition.

So what can you do to keep them in your diet and keep the illness out?

Wash, wash, wash.

Let me share with you some helpful tips.

Keep It Clean

Washing your produce seems like a no-brainer to keep contaminants out of your food.

Studies done by the University of Maine conclude that plain ol’ tap water is your first line of defense when warding off foodborne illness. In fact, a thorough H2O rinse of your fruits and veggies can kill 98 percent of the bacteria lurking on it.5

(If you have questionable tap water quality, you can always use filtered water.)

Be  sure you are washing in a clean sink and/or food prep area so as to reduce the chances of cross-contamination.

In addition to reducing dangerous bacteria, washing your produce also removes harmful pesticides.

While some folks don’t think their produce is clean unless they have used a produce wash, this may not be true. Evidence indicates that water is just as effective, and it’s a bit unclear if the residue washes leave is safe to eat.5

If you have any produce washing hacks or concerns about foodborne illnesses, let me know! nmoore@lfb.org

Live well,

Natalie Moore
Managing editor, Living Well Daily

P.S. If you are interested in learning better buying practices at the supermarket for produce and more, stay tuned! In the next few weeks, Living Well Daily will give you the opportunity to claim our new report, How to Survive the Supermarket. This special report will help you navigate the aisles of the grocery store and help you choose foods that are nutritional assets to your diet. In addition, It will reveal the newest ways food companies are getting GMOs into your grocery bags and how to avoid them.


Sources

[1] One dead in listeria outbreak; salad suspected

[2]
Listeria (Listeriosis)

[3]
Estimates of Foodborne Illness in the United States

[4] Fresh Produce Responsible for Most Foodborne Illnesses in the U.S.

[5] 7 Myths About Washing Your Produce

Natalie Moore

Written By Natalie Moore

Natalie Moore is a dedicated health researcher with a passion for finding healthy, natural, and science-based solutions. After a decade of direct healthcare experience in western and natural medicine, she was involved in public health research before joining Living Well Daily.

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