I love High Fidelity. The book introduced me to Nick Hornby, the movie introduced me to Jack Black and the soundtrack introduced me to Bruce Springsteen.
Okay, I knew about the Boss before, but the soundtrack indirectly led me to discover Thunder Road (which has helped me forget Dancing in the Dark).
The High fidelity-esque, Top 5 Records Rob Gordon-style, Center for Science in the Public Interest released a list of the top ten "riskiest" foods.
I place riskiest in dick fingers not because I want to be a dick, but because I don’t think that’s the right word. The list has been generated through data collected from CDC outbreak listings, state health departments and other various sources. The list should be called "The top 10 foods that are in dishes with foods regulated by the FDA, at some point, which have caused the most microbial foodborne illness outbreaks". But that title is too long.
CSPI is better than anyone else at pulling this stuff together and has an outbreak database that I use all the time. The missing bit of information which is not captured in the list (but is alluded to a bit in the report) and is needed to put the info into context is where did the contamination occur or where was the risk reduction step missed. What is the attributed source?
Source alone doesn’t matter, food alone doesn’t matter but putting those two data sources together allows for a concentration on where risk reduction efforts are needed.
Potatoes are the food on the list I have the most problem with. And it’s not because I have a soft spot for Idaho or Prince Edward Island. It’s because the outbreaks that place potatoes on the list are associated with potato dishes. It just happens that potato salad is consumed a lot, is prepared alongside other foods that carry risks by foodhandlers who might suck at hygiene. Potato dishes (mainly because of the additon of other foods) also create a great medium for pathogens. Potatoes aren’t on this list because potatoes are a particularly risky food.
The report says that over 40% of the included potato outbreaks were linked to foodservice or processing. 60% come from elsewhere (which probably includes community dinners, festivals, and in-the-home). Should I not eat potatoes, or should I not eat potato dishes? What about potato chips?
That information matters when it comes to dedicating resources to address the risky foods. It’s not a potato problem, it’s not an FDA regulated-food problem. Food safety is a farm-to-fork, almost every food, food handling problem.