Vegetables More Dangerous Than Poultry
January 29, 2013

Veggies Cause More Food-Borne Illnesses Than Poultry

Lee Rannals for — Your Universe Online

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), leafy greens accounted for the most food-borne illnesses nationwide for a ten-year period.

The CDC reported that leafy greens like lettuce, spinach and kale accounted for the most illnesses from food around the U.S. from 1998 through 2008.

Dairy products, the report said, accounted for the most hospitalizations, though, while the most deaths were linked to poultry.

Patricia Griffin, a food-borne disease expert at the CDC and senior author of the report, said that the study isn't meant to be a "risk of illness per serving" list for consumers. Instead, the list is meant to help regulators and the food industry improve the safety of food.

"The vast majority of meals are safe," she said in a statement. "Eating them is so important to a healthy diet. They're linked to reduced risk of heart attacks, stroke and cancer."

Researchers looked at 4,887 outbreaks that caused 128,269 illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths, and reported about it in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.

The CDC found that leafy greens accounted for 23 percent of illnesses, while dairy products accounted for 14 percent. When they considered only hospitalizations, then dairy products topped the list at 16 percent of hospitalizations, leafy vegetables at 14 percent and poultry at 12 percent.

Poultry topped the list when it came to deaths, coming in at 19 percent, while dairy products jumped in at ten percent. According to the report, 277 people died from food-borne illnesses linked to poultry and 140 from illnesses linked to dairy products during that ten year span.

Griffin said that the statistics are essential for government agencies and the food industry to make food safer.

The new Food Safety Modernization Act requires the Food and Drug Administration to focus its regulatory efforts on the highest-risk food products.

Griffin said that dairy product numbers are misleading, and many of the outbreaks linked to these cases involved unpasteurized milk and cream. The vast majority of Americans eat only pasteurized dairy products.

"The weight of the raw milk outbreaks is making it look as if dairy is a bigger source of illness than we actually think it is," she said.

Last year, a study was published that looked at 13 years of outbreaks linked to dairy products. This study found that products like unpasteurized milk, cheese and cream were 150 times more likely to cause food-borne illness outbreaks than pasteurized dairy foods.