We've heard about the outbreaks and the recalls, and now we even know where pathogens are most likely to be lurking: A new report has ranked the top offending food products.
The report, released this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, and the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service, is the result of an investigation into the sources of common foodborne illnesses. The report breaks down where four pathogens were found between 1998 and 2012 (the most recent available data) using the CDC's Foodborne Disease Outbreak Surveillance System. This included data on 1,000 cases and 17 categories of food sources (e.g. fruits, dairy, and eggs).
It turned out that over three quarters of Salmonella cases came from a wide variety of sources, including eggs, fruits, seeded vegetables (such as tomatoes), chicken, beef, and pork. But, around 80% of Escherichia coli cases were attributed to just beef and row-vegetable crops such as leafy greens. Over 60% of Campylobacter cases were just from dairy (especially raw milk and cheese products), and half of Listeria cases were traced to fruit (anyone else remember those deadly caramel apples?).
Of course, this doesn't mean you should stop eating these foods (honestly, what would even be left?). Instead, just know that the agencies hope to use this data to focus their efforts on the biggest problems, and to provide a more accurate picture of what's going on when new outbreaks arise.