Get ready to have your foodie soul crushed a little. Food poisoning expert Bill Marler has spoken, and now you’ll never look at packaged salad greens the same way again.
Marler has seen his share of foodborne illnesses. Currently on the case in the Chipotle e.coli/norovirus litigation, the foodborne-illness lawyer has won more than $600 million for his clients since starting his firm, Marler Clark, in 1998. Marler recently posted the six foods he would never eat in Food Poison Journal, a Marler Clark-run informational website.
On the list:
Unpasteurized milk and juices: “There’s no benefit big enough to take away the risk of drinking products that can be made safe by pasteurization,” Marler writes, pointing out the 148 food poisoning outbreaks linked to the beverages that occurred between 1998 and 2011. “And keep in mind that comparatively few people in the country ever consume these products, so 148 outbreaks is nothing to ignore.”
Raw sprouts: Linked to more than 30 outbreaks since the mid-’90s, all sprouts are suspect in Marler’s eyes—although he does eat them if they’re cooked.
Meat that isn’t cooked through: “The reason ground products are more problematic and need to be cooked more thoroughly is that any bacteria that’s on the surface of the meat can be ground inside of it,” he writes. Needle tenderized steak is especially bad, as the process of piercing the surface with needles or slicing it with knives can transfer surface bacteria to the center of the meat. He orders his steak medium-well, at best.
(FACT FROM THE UPROXX FOOD TEAM: There is no reason to eat steak cooked above medium.)
Prewashed or precut fruits and vegetables: Yes, it’s convenient. But it’s also a bacteria factory. “We’ve gotten so used to the convenience of mass-produced food—bagged salad and boxed salads and precut this and precut that,” he says. But the more a food is handled, the more likely it is to become tainted. Marler buys his produce unwashed and uncut.
Raw or undercooked eggs: Marler admits that the risk of egg contamination these days is much lower than it was twenty years ago. Still, though, as he writes, “The most recent salmonella outbreak from eggs, in 2010, caused roughly 2,000 reported cases of illness.” Which is why he still eats his eggs cooked through.
(Even the yolks? Yeeeech!)
Raw oysters and other raw shellfish: “I’ve seen a lot more of that [shellfish-borne food illness] over the last five years than I saw in the last 20 years,” Marler writes. He attributes this uptick in cases to warmer waters producing more microbial growth: as filter feeders, shellfish pick up everything in the water, including bacteria. And when it’s not cooked through, well. You might just regret that oyster bar you visited when you’re bending over the toilet at two in the morning.
It’s a small list, but what a buzzkill, right? What about all the delicious cocktails that rely on egg whites for creaminess? What about that juicy, barely-seared steak you love ordering from your favorite steakhouse? And the oysters! Why the oysters? What monster attacks oysters?
The official Uproxx stance: take everything the man says with a grain of pasteurized salt. Marler is immersed in foodborne illness cases day in and day out. You can bet that hearing horrific story after horrific story from clients through the years has done a number on the man.
As for us: we’re going to keep ordering our sandwich with sprouts for the time being. At least, until we end up horrifically sick. Then we’ll consider re-evaluating.