Bill Marler is the most famous food safety lawyer in the United States. He has represented victims in almost all outbreaks of foodborne illness in the United States over the past 20 years, including the latest in Costco and Chipotle. He writes about it Bottom line inc.
He knows how terrible these diseases are. Every year, 48 million Americans suffer from food poisoning. 128 thousand of them end up in the hospital, and about 3000 cases end in death.
Bill said that in his life there are products that he never uses.
1. Unpasteurized ("raw") milk and packaged juices
Unpasteurized milk, sometimes referred to as "raw", can be contaminated with bacteria, viruses, and parasites.
Between 1998 and 2011, there were 148 outbreaks of food poisoning in the United States associated with raw milk and raw dairy products in the United States. With regard to unpasteurized packaged juices, one of Marler's early cases was an outbreak E. E. coli coli in 1996, from unpasteurized apple juice.
2. Raw shoots
Raw and lightly cooked sprouts have been associated with more than 30 bacterial outbreaks, mainly Salmonella and E. coli, in the US since the middle of the 1990-s.
Back in 2014, the bean sprouts salmonella sent 19 people to the hospital. All kinds of sprouts, including alfalfa, mung bean, clover and radish sprouts, can spread the infection caused by bacterial contamination of their seeds.
“There have been too many outbreaks to ignore the risk of seedling infestation,” Marler argues.
"These are foods that I just don't eat at all." Although, he says, he eats them if they are well processed.
3. Raw or medium processed meat
Marler orders well-done meat for his hamburgers.
“Animal products are more problematic and need to be cooked more carefully, as any bacteria that is on the surface of the meat can be ground down inside it,” says the expert.
“If meat is cooked at temperatures below 70°C, it can cause poisoning with E. coli, salmonella and other bacterial diseases.”
“For steaks, needles, which is a common restaurant practice, piercing the steak with special needles or knives in order to make it more tender, can also transfer bacteria from the surface to the interior of the meat. Therefore, it is important that the steaks are then properly processed and cooked,” explains Marler.
4. Pre-washed and sliced fruits and vegetables.
“I avoid people like the plague. Why? The more food comes into contact with water, utensils, knives and without lids, the greater the likelihood of infection. We are so accustomed to the convenience of mass-producing lettuce in a box that we don’t think about how dangerous it is,” he notes.
"The convenience is excellent, but sometimes I think it is not worth the risk."
He buys unwashed, uncut food, but in small quantities, and eats it within three to four days to reduce the risk of listeria, a deadly bacterium that grows and spreads in food kept outside the refrigerator.
5. Raw or undercooked eggs
You may recall the Salmonella epidemic in the 1980s and early 1990s, which was mostly linked to eggs. The most recent outbreak of salmonella due to eggs in 2010 caused about 2000 cases.
“I think the risk of Salmonella in eggs is much lower today than it was 20 years ago, but I still only eat eggs that are well cooked,” says Marler.
6. Raw oysters and other raw shellfish
Marler says that raw shellfish, especially oysters, have been causing more and more food-borne diseases lately. He connects this with the warming of water, which creates a favorable environment for the reproduction of bacteria and microbes.
“Oysters are feeders, so they take everything in the water. If there are bacteria in the water, they will get into their system, and if you eat it, you may have problems. Over the past five years, I have seen many more victims than in the previous 20 years. So it's not worth the risk," he advises.
And finally, Bill said that there is one product that he eats with pleasure, although many are afraid to use it. This is sushi.
Marler says there have been few food poisonings associated with sushi. As a rule, they arise from the fact that the sushi chef processed the products incorrectly.
Bill claims that he won't go to any sushi bar and definitely won't buy a pre-made product in the store. But he will not refuse sushi in a good restaurant:
"If you are going to eat sushi, then do not regret spending money on a good restaurant, which is responsible for the quality of the prepared dishes."