Trying Really Hard Not to Get Food Poisoning

August 2013 Update:  Prepackaged salad mix has been pinpointed as the source of an outbreak of cyclospora — an intestinal illness tied to a rare type of parasite — that has sickened scores of people in Iowa and Nebraska, health authorities report. This video/article gives information about the outbreak and advice regarding food poisoning

** Salmonella, E. coli, and food recalls. A guy could get paranoid. This blog from the past still contains information regarding food poisoning and how to avoid it.

Three and a Half Suggestions that could save your life:
#1 Listen to the experts. The FDA publishes papers such as 7 Tips for Cleaning Fruits and Vegetables. Valuable pronouncements like “wash hands, refrigerate produce, and don’t eat rotten fruit” might be common sense. But other gems are less obvious. In another online article, an Ohio State University professor provides a website with some research-based information about avoiding foodborne illness: What to do when you eat out and find lipstick on your water glass (relax); what to do if you have a plate with a crack in it (complain).  After reading his material, you might decide to carry your own fork around with you.
Poison Hemlock: Parsley’s Deadly Cousin
#2 Don’t confuse lambsquarters with poison hemlock.  According to weed scientists, nature provides us with some common weeds that are edible and, in these tough economic times, cheap. In his classic novel, Ray Bradbury had the right idea by concocting dandelion wine, but he didn’t go the step further by frying the yellow blossoms, as this article, Weed Society Lists Some Unwanted Plants That Can Make Tasty Treats, suggests. The weed experts confirm that I also was on the right track when I had to forage and eat off the land to achieve a certain merit badge when I was a fifteen-year-old Boy Scout. For one item on my gourmet survival menu, I boiled up some lambsquarters, a broadleaf weed that grew among the thistles and cow pies in our farm pasture. Even Andrew Zimmern would scoff at my meal that day.  
     The weed folks warn us about toxic plants that put on a false front. Poison hemlock apparently looks like parsley, and I suppose I could have accidently cooked up some of the deadly nightshade that had killed a 200-pound pig on our farm a few years before.   
     The weed scientists give another thoughtful suggestion: Avoid weeds that might have been sprayed with pesticides.  We’re probably getting enough of those from the fruits and veggies we buy at the store.
#3 Carefully research the brave new world of “gastronomic adventures”:  As reported in a Culinary Trend Mapping Report, consumers are finding new sources of tastes on the food spectrum.  From curries to Sea Buckthorns to tamarind, today’s recipe items include international spices, selections from the wild, and reworked flavors from the past. The online article about this trend mentions two Japanese items: yuzu, a tart citrus fruit, and wasabi, the sinus-clearing horseradish-like condiment famous for its pairing with sushi. Which takes us to the final tip.
#3½   Don’t eat raw meat sushi at a county fair in Iowa:  This last suggestion rates only a half point on the scale since a reader can decide to go either way with it. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the quality of fish sushi I’ve found in Iowa, but here in this Midwest state, we’re known for cooking (at times incinerating) our meat properly.  An online article from Tokyo, Sushi Brings Out Japan’s Carnivore Girls, states that raw meat sushi is experiencing a boom there. But a follow-up article, New Rules Planned for Raw Meat Sellers, advises caution. During my years working in Japan, I only ate raw meat once, and that was unknowingly. The paper thin slices of red meat covered in a soy-based sauce we were served in the mountains of Nagano Prefecture turned out to be horse. We suffered no ill effects, but as far as I know, the many other servings of sushi/sashimi I had during those years all came from something that swam in the sea.
As our diets change and our nutritional sources diversify, the food industry faces new challenges to provide safe, abundant food. CAST has published several papers and a video that add to the much needed core of credible information explaining the issues.  Check out  Food Safety and Fresh Produce: An Update (this link includes free access to a published commentary and a three-part video). Many more publications are available at the new CAST website.
By Dan Gogerty, CAST Communications Editor

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