Please Explain: Food-Borne Illness and Food Safety

Friday, June 11, 2010

Summer brings barbeques, potato salads, and lots of leafy green salads—and the potential for food-borne illness. On this Please Explain, we’ll find out where these bugs come from and how can we avoid getting sick from the foods we eat.

We'll also discuss food recalls and new legislation that will increase the FDA’s role in regulating our food supply. Dr. Gregory Hedberg, professor in the Division of Environmental Health Sciences at the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health, and Dr. Phyllis Della-Latta, Professor of Clinical Pathology in Medicine at Columbia University Medical Center, join us.


Dr. Gregory Hedberg

Comments [16]


Know your farmers. I went all winter in NYC without purchasing a single vegetable from any store - they all came from local farmers and farmers markets. You can do that, too Stop buying greens that come from California under plastic - or even farther away. Use your wallet to make eating local foods the norm. Organic food can't have sludge in the fields. Organic grass fed beef from small farmers don't take antibiotics or eat food that makes them sick - and they aren't further weakened by confinement which keeps them in filth and keeps the sun out of their lives. Same for chickens and eggs. Industry and food do not really mix. Check out the SLOW MONEY movement!

Jun. 11 2010 02:29 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Mortified, if anything like that ever happens again, call 311 & ask for the poison control center. At the least, call your doctor the next day.

Jun. 11 2010 01:57 PM
Estelle from Austin (formerly NYC)

I've heard that washing lettuce or spinach that is contaminated with E. coli doesn't get the bacteria off, but rather spreads it around. Is this true? So...what can we do?

Jun. 11 2010 01:57 PM
Amy from Manhattan

What's the best way to deal w/mold in a plastic container? Borax? Chlorine bleach? Alcohol? Boiling water would melt it, so that's not an option.

Jun. 11 2010 01:53 PM
starfish from brooklyn

Regarding listeria: what makes something a "deli meat?"
Does a vacuum sealed package of smoked turkey purchased at the grocery store a possible medium for listeria?
Or is it something about the deli atmosphere that allows listeria to grow?

Jun. 11 2010 01:52 PM
Chris from Manhattan

When you order 'raw' steak in restaurants, how would I know if the meat doesn't carry any bacteria that would have been killed if it were properly grilled?

Jun. 11 2010 01:51 PM
Audra from Manhattan

Any advice for how to make the safest sushi choices? About two years ago I was hospitalized for severe food poisoning that, after testing, was attributed to the raw fish I had consumed exactly 24 hours prior to getting violently ill.
I've been a little wary of sushi ever since but do want to dive back in.

Jun. 11 2010 01:47 PM
stephanie from NJ

Caesar salad was my only experience with food poisoning.
I knew when I couldn't keep water down that I needed to see a doctor. It took 6 units to get my blood pressure back to normal.
Since then, I ask how the dressing is prepared.
I wouldn't wish it on my worse enemy.

Jun. 11 2010 01:45 PM
Kenneth Klein from Soho

You haven't mentioned the most serious food poisoning of all - botulism.

Jun. 11 2010 01:42 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Leonard, can you please ask the guests to try to avoid technical language? Not everyone knows that febrile means feverish.

Jun. 11 2010 01:41 PM
aaron from manhattan

could your guests explain the dangers posed by Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations - industrial farms where the majority of meat in the market is grown?

Jun. 11 2010 01:40 PM
Mortified from Brooklyn

OK: The urban legend that Twinkies cannot go bad is not true.

I ate one in the dark while watching a movie, but noticed a very chalky, burnt plastic taste. When I turned the lights on, I discovered the it was totally covered with green fur and slimy white mold. Queue FREAK OUT.

It's the middle of the night, so instead of calling my doctor, I go online (of course). I see that certain mold toxins can cause liver cancer. Queue FREAK OUT.

So, I ate a bunch of activated carbon meant for my aquarium because it is supposed to be a common treatment for accidental poisoning. A couple of days later, I feel fine (and cleansed!), but I still don't know how serious this was or might have been. Do you guests have any insights on the danger of eating expired food in your own home?

Jun. 11 2010 01:35 PM
Betty Anne from UES

I often wonder about places like Whole Foods and Heinz selling "organic" products in plastics which may be leaching bpa.

Jun. 11 2010 01:34 PM
Tim from NJ

Is there any evidence that producing certified organic beef (where no antibiotics are used) will reduce the levels of dangerous bacteria (the bad E. coli strains) in the meat?

Jun. 11 2010 01:30 PM

I have a large container of ricotta cheese with a best-by date of May 23rd. It got lost at the back of the fridge and I rediscovered it yesterday. It was still sealed, and smells and tastes fine. Should I not eat it? If it's ok to eat, how quickly will it go bad? If I use it to bake something, will the oven heat kill any/all potential bugs?

Jun. 11 2010 01:20 PM

When my husband came into the family he quickly learned our mantra: Hot food hot. Cold food cold. After about 20 minutes, it's all packed away in the refrigerator. He not only learned our mantra, but he learned to fill his plate quickly if he wanted to eat.

We have been to many backyard barbeques where the only thing we'll eat is the fruit salad and the pickles (low risk of food poisoning compared to the meats and potato salads)

Jun. 11 2010 12:51 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.