This week's announcement by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) naming potatoes to the list of the "Top 10 Riskiest Foods Regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration" requires some important clarification so as not to raise unnecessary alarm or confusion among consumers.
"Potatoes are inherently healthy and are not an inherently risky food and they should not be on this list at all. The issue is cross-contamination, not the potato itself," said Tim O'Connor, CEO of the U.S. Potato Board.
Potatoes rank number five on the CSPI list, which is based on federal data collected since 1990 about foods that caused the largest numbers of foodborne-illness outbreaks. Potatoes are on the list because of the risk of cross-contamination due to improper handling, either in food service settings or home kitchens. The following information provides important information about potatoes and food safety for media, consumers, retailers and food services operators:
--Potatoes are not an inherently risky food. There is no reason consumers should be concerned about continuing to enjoy potatoes in all the ways they always have. Proper handling of potatoes eliminates the majority of food safety concerns.
--Good food safety practices and procedures - both at home and in restaurant kitchens or other food service settings - are important to the safe consumption of the vegetable that is a staple of so many American's diets. By following the tips below, consumers can feel confident about the safety of the potatoes they purchase, consume and serve:
--Store potatoes in a cool and dark place out of direct sunlight.
--Wash potatoes thoroughly prior to cooking and remove any discolored portion. Be sure to wash hands after handling raw potatoes.
--Be sure to chop or handle potatoes on a clean cutting board to avoid cross contamination with other foods.
--Cross contamination can also occur from ingredients combined with potatoes in recipes such as potato salad, so be sure to use proper safety techniques with all ingredients.
--Cook thoroughly. Potatoes should reach an internal temperature of at least 140 degrees; for boiled potatoes water temp should reach 212 degrees.
--Refrigerate any leftovers soon after cooking. Do not allow to stand at room temp for longer than 20 minutes.
--Finally, more than 41 billion pounds of potatoes are enjoyed each year by U.S. consumers. Packed with essential vitamins and minerals, one medium potato (5.3 ounces) with the skin boasts more potassium than a banana, provides 45 percent of the recommended Daily Value of vitamin C, has just 110 calories and is fat-, sodium- and cholesterol-free.
"Potatoes have long-served as an important part of American's diets, and there is no reason why anyone should feel concerned about consuming potatoes now or ever," said Kathleen Triou, VP of Domestic Marketing for the U.S. Potato Board. "That said, proper kitchen practices must rule the day when it comes to keeping potatoes - and all other foods - safe, wholesome and naturally good to eat."