6 Things a Food Poisoning Expert Won't Eat

Food Safety Tips

What does a man who's spent his career working on cases of food poisoning eat -- or not eat? Bill Marler, an attorney who specializes in food poisoning lawsuits, published a recent article in the Food Poison Journal naming six foods he says he avoids "like the plague."

Marler, who is part of a lawsuit against Chipotle over its recent problems with E. coli, first made headlines winning a multimillion dollar award for a victim of the 1993 Jack in the Box E. Coli outbreak.

"I usually don't go to a lawyer for medical advice, but actually in this case I think he had some good ideas here," Dr. Roshini Raj, an associate professor at NYU Langone Medical Center, told CBS News.

"A lot of these foods are common culprits for food poisoning outbreaks in this country, and things that we should not necessarily avoid altogether, but be careful when we are eating them."

Marler's list includes:

  • Unpasteurized "raw" milk and packaged juices - "Unpasteurized milk, sometimes called 'raw' milk, can be contaminated with bacteria, viruses and parasites," Marler wrote.
  • Raw sprouts - Sprouts -- including alfalfa, mung bean, clover and radish sprouts -- can be contaminated with E. coli or salmonella.
  • Meat that isn't cooked well-done - The CDC says ground meats should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit to kill E. coli, salmonella and other pathogens. Poultry should be cooked to 165 degrees.
  • Prewashed or precut fruits and vegetables - Marler notes that the more a food is handled, the more likely it is to become contaminated along the way.
  • Raw or undercooked eggs - Raw eggs can spread salmonella.
  • Raw oysters and other raw shellfish - Marler says as the climate warms, this is becoming a bigger problem; "Oysters are filter feeders, so they pick up everything that's in the water. If there's bacteria in the water it'll get into their system, and if you eat it you could have trouble," he wrote.

Raj agreed there's a lot of common sense behind these warnings.

Prewashed bags of fruits, vegetables or salad are popular and convenient, but have been linked to a number of outbreaks of foodborne disease, including a recent spate of listeria cases tied to salads packaged at a Dole facility in Ohio.

Raj said consumers don't have to avoid them completely, but take precautions. "Don't necessarily trust the manufacturer that all the bacteria or viruses have been removed. Even if it says prewashed, go ahead and give it another wash."

CDC: Be Safe, Protect Yourself From Food Poisoning 

As for raw or undercooked meat, "Not a good idea," Raj said. "There is a risk of E. coli there, other bacteria. I would always get it medium-well to well-done."

She also agreed that it's best to avoid unpasteurized milk and juices; the pasteurization process kills bacteria that can cause illnesses.

Older adults, pregnant women, young children, and people with chronic illnesses that weaken their immune systems should be especially careful, since they can suffer more severe complications from foodborne illness.

The CDC estimates that about 1 in 6 Americans -- 48 million people -- get sick from foodborne illnesses each year, and 3,000 die.

*Note: This story was first published by CBS News in 2016*

© 2017 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.


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