If you’re going to trust anyone on the subject of food poisoning, it should probably be Bill Marler.
The lawyer has spent over 20 years working on food poisoning lawsuits, including the suit against Chipotle after the fast food chain’s big E. coli and Norovirus troubles around 2015.
After devoting so much time and energy to all things food poisoning, Marler’s experiences have lead him to be, let’s just say, a little pickier that most people about what he eats.
In an article on his law firm’s blog, Food Poison Journal, Marler lists the six foods he flat-out refuses to eat.
Take note, guys.
Unpasteurized (“raw”) milk and packaged juices
“Unpasteurized milk, sometimes called ‘raw’ milk, can be contaminated with bacteria, viruses and parasites,” warns Marler. He also adds that one of his earliest cases was a 1996 E. coli outbreak from unpasteurized Odwalla apple juice. Now he just doesn’t touch the stuff. “There’s no benefit big enough to take away the risk of drinking products that can be made safe by pasteurization,” he says.
All types of sprouts—including alfalfa, mung bean, clover and radish sprouts—can spread infection due to bacterial contaminations of their seeds. Marler says uncooked or undercooked sprouts have been linked to 30 bacterial outbreaks since the ’90s.
Bill Marler. Image via Twitter.
"There have been too many outbreaks to not pay attention to the risk of sprout contamination," he says. "Those are products that I just don’t eat at all.”
Meat that isn’t well-done
Marler orders his burgers well-done to ensure the entire patty is cooked to 70 degrees Celsius all the way through. When ordering steak, Maler asks the restaurant if they use a common practice called needle tenderizing, which, while great for making a cut of meat more tender, can transfer bacteria from the surface of the meat to the interior. If the restaurant does use needle tenderizing, he orders his steak well-done. If not, he goes for medium-well.
Pre-washed or pre-cut fruits and vegetables
"I avoid these like the plague,” Marler says, explaining the more food is handled, (e.g. while being sliced) the more likely it is to pick up unwanted bacteria.
“We’ve gotten so used to the convenience of mass-produced food—bagged salad and boxed salads and pre-cut this and pre-cut that,” he says. “Convenience is great but sometimes I think it isn’t worth the risk.”
Stay away from pre-cut fruit, Marler says.
Raw or undercooked eggs
There were huge salmonella outbreaks in the '80s and early '90s, as well as an outbreak in 2010 that resulted in around 2,000 cases of salmonella poisoning.
“I think the risk of egg contamination is much lower today than it was 20 years ago for salmonella," says Marler, "But I still eat my eggs well-cooked.”
Raw oysters and other raw shellfish
According to Marler, raw shellfish—oysters in particular—have been causing more food borne illness lately.
"Oysters are filter feeders, so they pick up everything that’s in the water," he explains. "If there’s bacteria in the water it’ll get into their system, and if you eat it you could have trouble. I’ve seen a lot more of that over the last five years than I saw in the last 20 years. It’s simply not worth the risk."
This guy sounds like a lot of fun to take out. While you have to appreciate his concern and expertise, it's tempting to just keep on enjoying what oysters every now and then.
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