ISSUES

The 6 Most Dangerous Foods for U.S. Consumers

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.

Leafy Greens

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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.

Raw Flour

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

CULTURE

​Strange Brew: Does Coffee Cause Cancer?

We love coffee. Does it love you?

In New York City, the Health Department makes restaurants display cleanliness and safety grades in their windows; anything less than an "A" is usually mounted behind a potted fern or hung near ground level. Visiting San Francisco last March, I noticed something similar when I bought my afternoon latte at a Starbucks. Tucked behind the half 'n' half jug and napkin dispensers was a 4x6 inch notification that acrylamide, a chemical byproduct of the roasting process, may cause cancer.

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CULTURE

The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry

The cosmetics industry is surprisingly under-regulated.

Since the passing of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, the U.S. cosmetics industry–currently valued at $62 billion–has been under the jurisdiction of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This Act, a 112-page law passed in 1938, provides exactly one full page detailing the regulation of cosmetics, and according to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics "provides virtually no power to perform even the most rudimentary functions to ensure the safety" of the enormous industry. While food and pharmaceuticals tend to face stringent regulations–think Taco Bell and their not-allowed-to-call-this-beef mystery sludge–cosmetics have been virtually regulation-free for the past 80 years. Most cosmetics don't even need FDA approval, and are largely self-regulated by the companies that produce them.

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Is there a connection between tattoos and leukemia?

Tattoos have evolved over the years, but are they harmful or toxic to the body?

When most cancer survivors ask their oncologists if they can get a tattoo, the answer is, "No! And don't even think about it." The reason often stems from numerous studies looking at a possible connection between tattoos and leukemia, a blood cancer. The big concern is chemicals in the dye that will go directly on and potentially in the skin. The key questions many studies are trying to answer right now are: "What are in the dyes?" "Do they go directly into the blood stream for some or all?" "What is the impact of the dyes long-term?" and "Why are those dyes not regulated in he first place?"

So if everything else that can potentially go into your bloodstream is regulated, then why isn't tattoo ink?

First, to give you perspective, I have to share one cautionary rule that many oncologists tell survivors to follow in order to lower their risk, and this is certainly good for anyone. Think before you apply anything to your skin because it does have the potential to go directly into your bloodstream, and that includes sunscreen, bug spray or lotion. This should come as no surprise, especially with the existence of a birth control patch the size of a bandage that goes directly into your bloodstream. So if everything else that can potentially go into your bloodstream is regulated, why isn't tattoo ink?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states on its website, "While state and local authorities oversee the practice of tattooing, ink and ink colorings (pigments) used in tattoos are subject to FDA regulation as cosmetics and color additives. However, because of other public health priorities and a previous lack of evidence of safety concerns, FDA has not traditionally regulated tattoo inks or the pigments used in them." After receiving various reports of adverse reactions to tattoo ink, the FDA launched an investigation in 2008. It has a warning on its website to consumers that says several of the pigments used in tattoo ink are "industrial-grade colors suitable for printers' ink or automobile paint."

The FDA's National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR), research chemist Paul Howard, Ph.D., and his team are investigating to get more answers. What they do know is that some ink particles have shown the ability to go beyond the skin, into the bloodstream and into the lymph nodes or lymphatic system, which is where the body carries out disease-causing organisms. That's a problem. The FDA also found some potentially dangerous substances, including metals and hydrocarbons that are known carcinogens in the ink, saying, "One chemical commonly used to make black ink called benzo(a)pryrene is known to be a potent carcinogen that causes skin cancer in animal tests."

Some ink particles have shown the ability to go beyond the skin, into the bloodstream and into the lymph nodes or lymphatic system, which is where the body carries out disease-causing organisms.

Outside the US, more studies are being conducted. One out of the University of Bradford in the UK found that the tattoo process removes the body's main connective tissue and the ink particles leave the surface of the skin and travel elsewhere. Another study out of the UK is led by Jorgen Serup, a professor of dermatology at Copenhagen's Bispebjerg University Hospital. He claims that he found evidence that the nanoparticles present in inks can reach major organs of the body and cause cancer. According to the International Business Times, the study says that as many as 13 out of 21 commonly used European inks have cancer causing chemicals in them. The article goes on to state that the Tattoo Ink Manufacturers of Europe "believe that about 5 percent of European tattooists use toxic ink, and wants the EU to compel ink makers to conduct risk assessments on their products and make the results public."

Think that henna tattoos might be your best shot? Think again! The Telegraph looked at a study in the United Arab Emirates, published in the "Leukemia and Lymphoma Journal." Women there who use henna to stain their nails, hands, feet, etc., face a higher incidence of leukemia. They said it is not the henna itself that is the problem but rather the compounds used as a solvent for the henna powder. That solvent contains benzene, which is known to cause cancer. According to the Telegraph, benzene is banned in many countries but still used.

I checked many tattoo website across the country to see if, perhaps, a newer, "cleaner" dye has been introduced since these studies were published, but I found no mention of anything. A few sites mentioned that there are always risks since it is a dye/pigment is permanently being added to the layers of your skin. Bottom line: There is no hard evidence that there is a 100 percent connection to leukemia but there is much cause for concern about what chemicals are in the ink, the long-term effects of the ink, and how the ink enters the body. Ask questions. Know before you ink. Perhaps, if you have a history of cancer in your family and you are at higher risk, talk to your doctor as well.