Buyer, beware: What foods are recalled the most?

42By Eli Epstein

MSN News – Despite advances in food safety and consumer awareness, food recalls impact millions of Americans every year. In July alone, according to the Food and Drug Administration, 17 food and beverage items were pulled from shelves for a wide variety of reasons. They include the detections of disease-causing bacterium such as salmonella, listeria and E. coli; the presence of undeclared milks, nuts, eggs and wheat; and also instances of Hepatitis A tainting.

On Thursday, U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service officials detected E.coli at a Kansas meat facility, forcing the National Beef Packing Co to recall almost 50,000 pounds of ground beef. And earlier this week, Iowa food safety investigators said they had linked a parasite that caused gastrointestinal sickness in 15 states, cyclospora, to pre-packaged salads sold all over the country. 

So what foods are most often involved in recalls or illness outbreaks?

Produce: Fruits and vegetables, including bagged lettuce and salads, are often sources of contamination resulting in recalls. According to an FDA report, the agency recalled 56 produce items (including fresh-cut fruit and vegetables and bagged vegetables) that contained either listeria, E. coli or salmonella from September 2011 to September 2012.

Bakery items: This is not one that often jumps to mind, but during that same time period, the FDA also removed 18 bakery items (defined as dough, breads, cookies, cakes and other items) because they contained undeclared allergens. 

Dairy: On Thursday, Whole Foods recalled Trois Comtois Morbier cheese in a number of regions because of listeria. Between September 2011 and September 2012, the FDA issued 20 recalls of dairy items (milk, cheeses and butters) due to undeclared allergens, listeria and a few cases of salmonella.

Meats: The Kansas beef recall is just the latest recall to involve beef. Last summer, there was a huge recall of more than 300,000 pounds of ground beef from a New Jersey manufacturer.

Salmonella, which sickens 40,000 Americans every year, doesn’t only apply to undercooked meat and eggs. It can also be found in pistachios, oregano and breakfast cereals, according to FDA records.

 

FOOD SAFETY: WHAT CAN CONSUMERS DO?

While Americans can feel threatened by the inundation of recalls and warnings, there are simple ways they can be better educated about food safety and prepared when product recalls occur. To avoid unlisted allergens and bacteria and stay up to date on recalls, the government offers food recall alerts, which can be sent to your email account or mobile phone.

In your kitchen, it’s important to scrub all produce with fresh water, helping to eliminate bacteria that grow on their periphery. Experts also recommend drying produce. Don’t wash your meat off with water, though; that splashes your counters with contaminated liquids.

The best way to ensure that your meat is safe is by cooking it properly, at a temperature above 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, be sure to refrigerate it after cooking, which delays the growth of bacteria. As easy as it is to clean your food, it’s also alarmingly simple to spread pathogens in your own home. If you have touched raw meat with your hands or utensils, wash them immediately. Cross-contamination is one of the easiest ways to acquire a food-borne illness. Also, never thaw food on your countertops. It’s best to do so in the refrigerator. Letting meats sit at room temperature allows bacteria to spread rapidly.

Source and Photo: MSN News, 1st August, 2013.
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