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The 5 Dirtiest Foods We Eat Everyday






Whether it's listeria in cantaloupes, E. coli in sprouts, or even salmonella in chicken or peanut butter, it seems like our food supply is a ticking time bomb. With government programs facing unprecedented cut, it largely leaves food safety up to us, the average consumer, to keep our kitchens clear of harmful bacteria. So where are these bugs lurking? Chances are, in one of these 5 foods.




Chicken

The dirt: Testing released by Consumer Reportsin 2010 found campylobacter in 62 percent of tested broilers; salmonella turned up in 14 percent. The number of birds infected with hard-to-kill supergerms is up more than 30 percent compared to 2007. In 2012, feather testing found antidepressant, caffeine, and allergy med residues.

At the supermarket: Look for organic birds; they are raised in less-crowded conditions, making it harder to pass along germs. Better yet, look for a local farmer who raises pastured broilers in smaller numbers.

At home: Bypass rinsing your raw bird in the sink—instead, put it directly into a baking dish or pan. Cook breasts and other cuts until the internal temperature hits 180°F. For the whole bird, check the temperature in the thickest part of the thigh.

Ground Beef

The dirt: When U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspectors last tested hamburger meat, they looked at 563 sources nationwide and discovered Clostridium perfringens in 53 percent of the batches, Staphylococcus in 30 percent, andListeria monocytogenes in 12 percent. At the supermarket: Choose grass-fed ground beef. A study looking at salmonella contamination found it present in just 4.5 percent of samples taken from grass-fed animals, compared to 9 percent of feedlot cattle. Cows weren't designed to eat grain, and corn and soy increase the acidity their stomachs—and levels of bacteria along with it.

At home: Add fresh oregano to your burgers and meat loaf. When researchers at Kansas State University mixed a variety of common household spices into ground beef to test their antibacterial properties, oregano tested as one of the best at wiping out bacteria. Use at least 1 tablespoon per pound of meat. Just as important, flatten your patties—thick burgers will char on the outside before the interior reaches the required safe temp of 160°F.


Eggs



The dirt: Which is dirtier, the chicken or the egg? Definitely eggs. Food poisoning linked to eggs sickens an estimated 660,000 people annually and kills 300. br>
At the supermarket: Check egg cartons for one word—"pastured." Research has shown that the rate of salmonella contamination in eggs is directly related to flock size. Therefore, factory-farmed eggs from henhouses containing 80,000 hens are more likely to pass the bacteria along to you than those from a local farmer with a flock of 100 or so hens that he raises on pasture. In fact, bypass the supermarket altogether. Get your eggs at the farmer's market, or even from a backyard chicken owner.

At home: Keep eggs in their carton and stow that in the coldest part of your fridge (usually the back of the lowest shelf). After you crack one open, wash your hands. Finally, cook your eggs—thoroughly (or, if they're an ingredient in a dish, to 160°F).

Prepackaged Lettuce

The dirt: Tthe lettuce on a burger could cause you more grief than the beef. February 2010 tests fromConsumers Union on 208 packages of salad greens found that 40 percent tested positive for fecal coliform bacteria. Before then, the Center for Science in the Public Interest estimated that lettuce accounted for 11 percent of reported food-poisoning outbreaks linked to produce from 1990 to 2002, and "salad" accounted for 28 percent.

At the supermarket: Prepackaged salad mix is not inherently more hazardous than loose greens or a head of lettuce. It's the claims of being "triple washed" that lull consumers into complacency.

At home: Rinse salad greens one leaf at a time under running water before eating. Beware of cross-contamination, too. You know it's risky to put salad in the same colander you washed chicken in but may accidentally touch a towel used to wipe up poultry juice, then make a salad.

Cold Cuts


The dirt: Germs don't take a number in the deli; cold cuts have been labeled at "high risk" of causing listeriosis by a joint team of researchers from the USDA, FDA, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Combine that with the fact that cold cuts are, well, eaten cold, and you've got trouble; Listeria thrives at refrigerator temperatures that stun other foodborne pathogens.

At the supermarket: Turns out the most likely source of Listeria-contaminated cold cuts is the deli slicer. Without regular cleaning, the blade can transfer bacteria from roast beef to turkey to pastrami and back. Don't buy more deli meat than you can eat within two days because the germ multiplies quickly.

At home: When you're ready to build your sandwich, slather on the mustard. Researchers at Washington State University killed off 90 percent of three potent pathogens—Listeria, E. coli, and salmonella—within two hours of exposing them to a mustard compound.

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