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From romaine lettuce to dairy products, beware of the dangerous foods you probably have in your kitchen.
As a health-conscious consumer, it's always important to be aware of what you're putting into your body.
Many illnesses are foodborne, and certain ingredients can also activate allergic reactions. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) consistently monitors and regulates outgoing food products, making it a great resource to help you stay on top of your meals. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also has a great list of risky food groups, so you can be extra careful when preparing your meals. Currently, these are the top foods for US Consumers to watch out for.
Different types of green vegetables in a stainless colander cloudfront.net
While salad is exceedingly healthy, raw or improperly washed greens can be a hotbed for dangerous germs including Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria. Most recently, an outbreak of E. coli linked to California-grown romaine lettuce infected 62 people, hospitalizing 25. As of January 19, 2019, the outbreak seems to be over, according to the CDC. California-grown romaine lettuce should be safe to eat once again, but even so, it doesn't hurt to practice caution at the salad bar.
You may love the taste of raw cookie dough, but anything containing uncooked flour is unsafe to eat. This is because flour is a raw agricultural product that hasn't been treated to kill potential germs. As a result, any contamination of the grain in the field can travel to your plate. The bacteria is killed through cooking though, so as long as you bake your desserts, you'll be fine.
Raw oysters are a wonderful delicacy, but they can also pose health risks if harvested from contaminated waters. If the water contains norovirus, it can be easily spread through raw oysters, along with Vibrio bacteria, which can lead to vibriosis. To avoid potential food poisoning, try cooked oysters as an alternative.
Eggs are an amazing source of healthy fat and protein. That being said, they can also contain Salmonella, a germ which can make you ill. To be safe, always buy pasteurized eggs and egg products, and be sure to cook eggs well until the yolks and whites are firm. Also, be sure to keep eggs refrigerated at 40º or colder.
Raw Milk, Cheese, and Dairy
Everyone enjoys dairy products like cheese, yogurt, and ice cream. But raw dairy products are known to contain harmful germs such as Campylobacter, Cryptosporidium, E. coli, Listeria, and Salmonella. To avoid these, make sure your dairy products are pasteurized, and be especially careful of raw milk and soft cheeses like feta and brie.
Chicken, Beef, Pork, and Turkey
Raw meat contains all sorts of germs including Campylobacter, Salmonella, Clostridium perfringens, Salmonella, E. coli, and Yersinia. As such, always be sure you're using fresh, unexpired meat, and cooking it thoroughly to kill any potential bacteria. Also, do not wash meat before cooking. This poses the risk of spreading harmful bacteria to other surfaces and utensils.
Always be sure to stay up-to-date on FDA advisories before going grocery shopping, and be aware of proper cooking methods, too. Knowing what products are safe and what products to avoid can help protect you and your family from serious foodborne illnesses.
The best way to minimize risk is to stay informed.
Modern medicine, especially vaccines, have drastically reduced the likelihood of getting infected by a deadly disease in first world countries.
But new strains, unvaccinated people, and other unforeseen factors can still pose a threat, and when an outbreak does occur, disease can spread like wildfire. This is especially true in third world countries, where access to medicine is lacking. These are just eight recent disease outbreaks you need to know about to keep yourself safe.
1. Yellow Fever - Nigeria
Yellow Fever, named for the yellowing effect it causes on skin, is currently spreading in Nigeria's Edo State. The virus is mainly spread through mosquitoes. This outbreak is unusually large in scale and severity, especially considering it's coming at a time of year when many travelers vacation to Nigeria. The World Health Organization (WHO) is not currently recommending any travel or trade restrictions, but they do implore any potential travelers to get vaccinated against the virus.
2. Ebola Virus - Democratic Republic of the Congo
An ongoing Ebola epidemic has been raging in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with 16 new cases confirmed between December 27, 2018 and January 2, 2019. Ebola is incredibly deadly, causing bloody vomit and internal bleeding, and spreads easily through saliva, bodily fluids, and contact with contaminated surfaces. Since there is no current accredited vaccine for Ebola, travelers are recommended to seek medical advice beforehand.
3. Measles - New York
In 2019, confirmed cases of Measles have hit record highs in New York, at least dating back for a few decades. Measles is the most deadly vaccine-preventable virus, mainly affecting young children and resulting in a red, blotchy skin rash. The virus, which had been mostly irrelevant for decades due to vaccines, has been experiencing a global resurrection propelled by parents not vaccinating their children.
4. Hantavirus Disease - Republic of Panama
Hantavirus disease has been ramping up in the Republic of Panama with 103 confirmed cases during 2018. Infection can progress to Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS), which is a fatal respiratory disease. The disease is primarily spread through rodents, and early treatment has a high success rate of mitigating lasting effects.
5. Typhoid Fever - Islamic Republic of Pakistan
A drug-resistant outbreak of Typhoid Fever has recently been reported in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Typhoid Fever is a very serious disease that causes high fever, stomach issues, and in rare cases can result in internal bleeding and death. The illness is primarily spread through contaminated food and water, and the WHO notes that this outbreak highlights the importance of public health measures to prevent such spreads.
6. Candida Auris - US
A type of yeast, Candida Auris is a relatively new infection that has proven difficult to combat. In 2018 there were nearly 500 confirmed cases in the US, and the trend seems to be continuing into 2019. Unfortunately the infection is largely drug-resistant, hard to spot, and prone to outbreak within the healthcare community.
7. Influenza - U.S.
This past flu season, over 80,000 people died from influenza, giving 2017-2018 the highest influenza death toll in 40 years. This was partially a result of the flu vaccine not being as successful as in previous years. People are still strongly recommended to continue getting their yearly flu vaccine to prevent future outbreaks of preventable strains.
8. E. Coli - U.S.
In June of 2018, an E. coli outbreak linked to contaminated romaine lettuce killed 5 people in the US. This strain of E. coli produced life-threatening toxins in the body which caused severe diarrhea, amongst other illnesses. 197 people were affected in total, but luckily the outbreak was contained. Yet another outbreak of E.coli linked to California-grown romaine lettuce ended on January 9, 2019, this time infecting 62 people. Unfortunately, E. coli and Salmonella poisoning is a relatively common occurrence now, especially considering how understaffed the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is currently. The ongoing government shutdown has served to further this problem, making safe oversight of food a serious issue right now.
Ultimately, sometimes you can do all the right things and still get infected with a disease or illness. That being said, with access to modern medicine, it's important to take every possible precaution to avoid preventable outcomes. This means making sure you, your family, and your friends are properly vaccinated, as well as avoiding those who are not. It also means doing your research before traveling to prepare for any possible outbreaks. Should you follow those basic rules, your risk of infection will be at a minimum.