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NewsBites April 2013 Issue

Leafy Greens, Poultry Top Foodborne Illness Sources

Leafy greens were to blame for the greatest proportion of foodborne illnesses over a recent 10-year span, according to a new CDC report, but poultry accounted for the most deaths from contaminated food. Dairy products were linked to the most hospitalizations in the study covering 1998 through 2008—primarily cases involving "raw," unpasteurized milk and cream. Overall, the report looked at 4,887 outbreaks that caused 128,269 illnesses in which the culprit foods could be identified or suspected; 277 deaths were attributed to contaminated poultry and 140 to dairy.

CDC epidemiologist Patricia Griffin cautioned that the report, which linked leafy greens such as lettuce and spinach to 23% of foodborne illnesses, shouldn’t lead consumers to skip these healthy foods. "The vast majority of meals are safe," she said. "Eating leafy greens is important to a healthy diet."

To stay safe, experts added, wash leafy greens and other produce thoroughly and cook poultry and other foods completely. Dairy shouldn’t be a concern as long as you’re among the vast majority of Americans who consume pasteurized products, estimated to be 150 times safer than "raw" milk products.

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