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10 Foods That Kill

From eDiets - The online diet, fitness, and healthy living resource

WARNING: You frequently come in contact with common, everyday foods that may not only kill your diet, but may also kill you!

The Panic Proof Parent Thats the shocking message from health safety expert Debra Holtzman. The author of The Panic-Proof Parent: Creating A Safe Lifestyle for Your Family (McGraw Hill) urges you to be as super careful as she is when it comes to stuffing food in your mouth.

Among her many preemptive strikes on salmonella and other food-borne disease, Holtzman always uses a cooking thermometer, scrubs fruits and vegetables with rinds, washes hands before and after preparing foods and tries to purchase produce in packages.

It may sound a bit over the top -- kind of Jack Nicholsonish in As Good As It Gets -- but Holtzman knows plenty of things we dont. She's all too aware of what can make us ill (or even dead) if were not careful.

In an attempt to educate as well as she alerts us to the hidden dangers in our diet, Holtzman makes sure each of the precautions in her handy new book includes a thorough explanation of why you should or why you shouldn’t follow the leader in this field of food safety.

Take the kitchen... it's without a doubt the most dangerous room in your house, according to Holtzman. After all, that’s where most food-borne illnesses are contracted. From water drinkers to lettuce eaters, we are all at risk.

According to the Center for Disease Control, about 76 million Americans will suffer from food-borne illness and at least 5,000 will die this year. Children, the elderly and the "immunocompromised" are at the greatest risk. Holtzman says many victims aren’t aware they’ve picked up a life-threatening illness until it’s too late.

Symptoms of food-borne illnesses include diarrhea, abdominal cramping, fever, blood or even pus in the stool, headache, vomiting and severe exhaustion. While some of the signs may mimic the flu, Holtzman points out that if your fellow diners or family members are also suffering, it’s a good indication you have contracted a food-borne illness.

"Some people come home from a restaurant and they don't feel well," says Holtzman, who in addition to her master's degree in health and safety also holds a law degree. "Sometimes it may come on as early as a half hour after eating; other times, it could take several days or weeks.

"If you and your boyfriend (or husband, wife, etc.) both ate the cheese at a restaurant and now you’re both feeling bad, you’ll want to call the establishment and let them know in case other people have complained about being ill too. If you went out to eat with other people, call them up and see if they also got sick. You have to be very prudent."

Prevention is the key when it comes to eating at home. Danger is lurking around every corner. A small sampling of the health hazards du jour:

  • When food is cooked, it kills the bacteria. When you are eating raw produce, the only way to eliminate bacteria is by thoroughly washing the produce. Fruits and vegetables can be contaminated by raw manure. They can be contaminated when handled by farmers, store employees or customers. Think about how many people touch the apples or tomatoes before you buy them. You have no idea where their hands have been!

  • Lettuce is definitely in the danger zone. Because it is grown so close to the ground, it can come into contact with manure or irrigation runoff. When you buy lettuce, you need to wash it thoroughly. Holtzman purchases the prepackaged lettuce that has been triple washed, then she washes it one more time for good measure. Prepackaged foods arent handled by as many people and that's a fact that decreases your risk of contamination.

  • Before you eat cantaloupe or other fruits with rinds, scrub them thoroughly. Pathogens (a disease-causing agent, especially a living microorganism such as a bacterium or fungus) clinging to the outside of the rind can contaminate the inside when you cut the fruit. Because you arent cooking the fruit, any bacteria wont be destroyed.

  • Dispose of all fruits and vegetables with broken skin. Organisms may have crawled into the pulp and you won’t be able to wash them out.

    Kitchen care is definitely a case of what you don't do, can kill you. Many foods that appear perfectly harmless are actually a food-borne illness waiting to happen.

    Here are Holtzman's top 10 foods that can kill:

    1. Raw homemade cookie dough! Were not talking about the prepackaged kind that many of us prefer to nibble on straight from the tube or tub. Were talking about homemade batter thats made with eggs. Raw eggs can be contaminated with salmonella, a food-borne illness that can prove fatal if untreated. Holtzmans words of wisdom: eat your homemade cookies cooked.

    2. Rare hamburger! Hamburgers and other ground meat should be cooked to at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent E. coli 0157:H7. Always use a food thermometer to ensure youve cooked the beef to a safe temperature.

    3. Turkey and stuffing! Cooking stuffing in a turkey or chicken is a major no-no. The bird cooks both from the outside and the inside. When you stuff the bird, it reduces the heat penetration. Your best bet is to cook the turkey and stuffing separately. If you do choose to cook them together, make sure the temperature reaches at least 180 degrees Fahrenheit in the innermost part of the thigh while the center of the stuffing inside the turkey reaches 165 degrees. Bacteria can survive in stuffing that hasnt reached that temperature.

    4. Shakes and eggs! A popular favorite these days is protein shakes. Unfortunately, they can do more harm than good when raw eggs are added to the mix. Once again youre putting yourself at risk for salmonella when you consume raw eggs. Also, beware of sunny side up eggs or runny eggs. Holtzmans rule of thumb is to cook the egg until both the yolk and the white are firm.

    5. Caesar salad! Many restaurants or recipes call for raw eggs in Caesar salad. Always ask. If the salad is served with raw eggs in the dressing, pass on this dangerous dish.

    6. Wild mushrooms! Portabella and shiitake lovers have no reason to worry -- they can still have their 'shrooms and eat 'em too. Just dont go scavenging in your backyard. Only eat mushrooms youve purchased in the grocery store. Many common species of mushrooms are poisonous... deadly poisonous.

    7. Raw or undercooked shellfish! Never eat undercooked seafood. Holtzman says oysters and clams are perched high atop this list. Any animal protein consumed raw or undercooked has an increased potential for causing illness.

    8. Water! Contaminated water can be a major source of trouble, especially for those drinking from wells or streams. Unintentionally drinking water from a swimming pool or other recreational water is also hazardous, as the water can contain E. coli. People who drink from a private well need to have their water tested regularly to make sure it doesn't have high levels of bacteria. If you are concerned, you can boil water before drinking to kill bacteria. People who are on a public water utility get a consumer confidence report once a year that analyzes the water.

    9. Raw sprouts! Alfalfa sprouts, clover sprouts and radish sprouts have all been associated with salmonella and E. coli. Cook sprouts first to lower the risk of illness.

    10. Unpasteurized juices, milks or cheeses! You always want to make sure you get the pasteurized versions of your favorite products. Pasteurization kills bacteria. If you arent sure if a product is pasteurized, boil it for a minute. When you go to a juice bar, make sure the juices being served are pasteurized. Unpasteurized products have been linked to salmonella, E. coli and listeria -- all can lead to death.

    To get your copy of The Panic-Proof Parent, click here. To get more great advice from Holtzman, click here.

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