The Peanut Butter Panic of 09 has caused the recall of many packaged products, not to mention several deaths. The FDA believes it has the one and only cause in Peanut Corporation of America (I'm not so sure) and they're working on containing products.
That leaves the question, after the peanut butter panic passes, what potential foods might lead to illnesses the way
tomatoes jalapenos and peanut butter has this year?
Here's my five choices along with my personal odds that they'll be the FDA's next headache.
Honey (20-1 odds)
Why worry? More than a third of all honey comes from China and much of that is brought in to country illegally. After a five-month investigation, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer broke a story about "tons of Chinese honey coming into the U.S. is tainted with banned antibiotics" like chloramphenicol.
Why not to worry? The traces of antibiotics have been small (though still harmful) and while the problem is thought to be widespread, there's no epidemic of cases. Honey is also extremely resistant to bacteria and mold, as shown by the fact it has an indefinite shelf life.
about the mercury levels in grocery-store tuna sushi and said it would
take only six pieces of sushi a week to pass EPA's acceptability
levels. In 2004 the FDA took the extra step of telling pregnant mothers
to eat no more than six ounces of canned tuna a week.
Why not to worry?
You have to seriously love tuna and have some bad luck to get mercury
poisoning. Also, not all tuna is created equal in terms of mercury.
Yes, sushi tuna has a lot of it but canned chunk light tuna is low in
mercury levels. (Albacore is somewhere in the middle.) Also, if the Mad Hatter is any guide, mercury poisoning may not be that bad.
High Fructose Corn Syrup (50-1 odds)
Why worry? Fructose corn syrup is already shaping up to be the next trans-fat fight, with opponents claiming our bodies do not process corn syrup as efficiently as regular sugar. That was before a study was released today
showing many corn syrup products show traces of mercury. While the
mercury levels aren't dangerous (unless you eat a 100 pounds of ketchup
a day) it is disturbing since mercury has never been found in corn
Why not to worry? Everything with corn syrup is speculative. Yes, it could turn out to be terrible for us but there's just as many scientific surveys
essentially saying it's a much ado about nothing. As stated above,
mercury levels are currently so small as to be insignificant.
Alfalfa Sprouts (3-1 odds)
It was the most shocking thing I learned in a food safety class but sprouts, the
ultimate health food is actually an ideal home for bacteria like
salmonella. While it almost never makes the news, small outbreaks occur constantly and it seems like it's only a matter of time until a national outbreak hits.
Why not to worry?
Sprout growers are usually localized, making it less likely that a bad
batch would effect more than one region. It's aging sprouts that
contain salmonella so if you're ever in doubt, throw them away and
don't take the chance. Really, don't mess around with iffy sprouts.
Strawberries (1-2 odds)
Why worry? Really, any fruit that's hand-picked and eaten with skin on is just asking for an outbreak, it just happens that strawberries are the most popular of that category of fruit and certain bacteria like listeria can be hard to get rid of, even if you wash the skin off. Then there was the strawberry sickness of 1996, which the FDA said it solved only to see strawberry recalls in 2000 and again in 2006.
Why not to worry? As long as you thoroughly wash strawberries, the chances of illness (even listeria) are extremely small. Treat ordering strawberries at restaurants with the same caution you treat ordering fish and pray for the best.