An Outbreak Of Distortion

Later this morning the scaremongers at the Center for Science in the Public Interest will be holding a news conference detailing what it says are the “top 10 riskiest foods” the FDA needs to pay closer attention to. It’s important for reporters to note that by focusing on FDA the report excludes beef, chicken and some egg products, which means that the vast majority of proteins eaten by Americans aren’t even considered.

One of the foods on the list is tuna, which CSPI is describing as risky because of the possibility that scombrotoxin may form when fresh tuna isn’t stored and handled correctly. Before CSPI gets off on a tangent about the dangers of tuna lets use its own numbers to get some perspective on the issue. You see, as it turns out berries have 10 times fewer outbreaks than tuna but cause a thousand more illnesses. I think were unlikely to see CSPI promoting headlines that say things like; seafood a thousand times safer than the berries you put on your breakfast cereal.

The possible formation of scombrotoxin in tuna is an issue that the canned tuna industry has been dealing with successfully for decades. As CSPI’s own report notes, scombrotoxin forms when fresh tuna is stored at temperatures above 60 F. The best way for consumers and restaurateurs to avoid the problem in fresh tuna is to ensure that they follow long established guidelines on the storage and handling of tuna, primarily by keeping it refrigerated properly. Put simply, just by following some common sense guidelines, consumers can avoid the vast majority of food borne illnesses. Click

And then there are oysters. Perspective is sorely needed here too. Should people with liver diseases and who are immune compromised avoid raw oysters? You bet they should and no one would suggest otherwise. As CSPI puts it Vibrio is the the more dangerous of the two pathogens found in oysters and it is but its Vibrio vulnificus thats the real concern and only 30 to 35 people (who are in a significant at-risk category) are affected by this each year. Keep in mind 30 to 35 cases out of 3,400 illnesses from the literally billions of raw oysters eaten every year.

Thats billion with a B and perspective with a P.