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Is it safe?

Is it Safe?

Quick. Is it safe to eat the food additive fumaric acid? Is bottled water safer than tap? Is it okay to eat cheese after cutting off the mold? What you know--and don't know--about buying, preparing, and storing foods will probably surprise you. Find out by taking CSPI's food-safety quiz.

The 25 questions in CSPI's Food Safety Quiz were compiled by staff scientist Lisa Lefferts. They aren't easy; most people we tested didn't even get half of them right. But don't let that discourage you. Just thinking about them will help you eat more safely. There is only one correct answer for each question.


1. Which are the most common symptoms of botulism?

a. nausea and vomiting

b. fatigue and blurred vision

c. fever and headache

d. diarrhea

2. Which fish is least likely to contain chemical contaminants like PCBx or pesticides?

a. bluefish

b. lake trout

c. haddock

d. stripped bass

3. True or False? You can't get food poisoing if you thoroughly cook your food and eat it promptly.

a. true

b. false

4. Food poisoning may cause long-term complications like:

a. arthritis

b. heart disease

c. kidney disease

d. all of the above

e. none of the above

5. Which of these food preservatives poses a risk?

a. BHA

b. calcium propionate

c. triethyl citrate

d. all of the above

6. Aunt Isabelle, who is undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer, is coming for lunch. Which is safest to serve her?

a. salad with homemade Caesar salad dressing

b. oysters on the half-shell

c. spaghetti with tomato sauce

d. rare, lean roast beef on rye

e. soft-boiled egg with whole-wheat toast

7. about how long do government inspectors spend examining each chicken?

a. 2 seconds

b. 20 seconds

c. 2 minutes

d. 20 minutes

8. Which statement is true?

a. dairy cows may only be given drugs that are approved for use in them

b. milk is unlikely to contain penicilin residues

c. most states use tests that can detect dangerous or unapproved animal drugs in milk

d. the FDA routinely tests milk for animal drugs

e. none of the above

9. What should you use to sweeten your coffee, tea, or other beverage?

a. acesulfame K (Sweet One)

b. aspartame (Equal)

c. saccharin (Sweet'N Low)

d. sugar or honey

10. You're about to make a Swiss cheese sandwich when you spot mold growing on one corner of the cheese and the bread. You should:

a. trim the mold off the cheese and throw out the bread

b. trim the mold off the bread and throw out the cheese

c. throw out both

d. eat both, if they smell okay

11. What is the healthiest way to cook meat?

a. precook it in a microwave just before broiling or barbecuing

b. cook it over high heat

c. cook it until well-done

d. all of the above

12. About how many people die from food poisoning in the U.S. each year?

a. 100

b. 1,000

c. 10,000

d. 100,000

13. How soon must you refrigerate fresh or leftover meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, or dairy products?

a. immediately

b. within one hour

c. within two hours

d. within three hours

14. Which food has been associated with food poisoning?

a. chopped garlic

b. honey

c. pasteurized milk (properly refrigerated)

d. raw cabbage

e. all of the above

f. none of the above

15. A plastic dish that is labeled "microwave-safe" or "microwave-approved":

a. meets or exceeds government safety standards

b. is probably better for reheating leftovers than a cottage cheese tub

c. has passed an industry-wide test showing that it will not release harmful chemicals into food

d. none of the above

16. Which statement about alcohol is not true?

a. there's less alcohol in a bottle of wine cooloer than in a bottle of beer

b. alcohol beverages are classified as a "known" carcinogen

c. heavy drinking can cause heart or brain damage

d. alcohol contributes to about half of homicides

17. Which of these food additives has killed people?

a. fumaric acid

b. propylene glycol

c. sulfur dioxide

d. titanium dioxide

e. all of the above

18. One reason to avoid artificial colors is:

a. they may slightly increase you risk of cancer

b. they may greatly increase your risk of cancer

c. they may cause liver damage

d. they prevent yout body from absorbing nutrients

19. Which will most reduce your risk of cancer from grilling meat?

a. using mesquite rather than charcoal

b. using a drip pan

c. grilling closer to the heat

d. basting frequently

20. The first symptoms of food poisoning can occur:

a. immediately

b. within 2 to 48 hours after eating

c. from two days to a week after eating

d. all of the above

21. The USDA finds illegal levels of pesticides and drugs most often in:

a. beef

b. poultry

c. pork

22. Which artificial food coloring is most likely to cause allergic reactions?

a. Blue 1

b. blue 2

c. red 3

d. Yellow 5

23. Bottled water:

a. is safer than tap water

b. is not as safe as home-filtered tap water

c. is probably safer than tap water, as long as you buy bottled "spring water"

d. none of the above

24. People have gotten botulism from:

a. bugling cans

b. hazelnut yogurt

c. potato salad

d. satueed onions

e. all of the above

25. The FDA least often finds pesticides in:

a. eggs and dairy products

b. fish and shellfish

c. fruits

d. grains

e. vegetables


1. b. Unlike most food poisoning, botulism is more likely to affect the nervous system than the digestive tract.

2. c. Low-fat species which are caught far offshore tend to have the least PCBs and pesticides. Stripped bass and bluefish migrate, so they could have high levels no matter where they're caught. (See "Good Fish...Bad Fish," Oct. 1988)

3. b. You can get food poisoning if your cooked food touches utensil, dish, countertop, or hand that has been used to prepare uncooked meats. You can also get sick from toxins in cooked fish if the fish wasn't refrigerated properly before being prepared.

4. d. And that's just the short list.

5. a. The International Agency for Research on Cancer says that BHA is "possibly" carcinogenic to humans. The other two are harmless.

6. c. N o foods likely to harbor food-poisoning microbes for Aunt Isabelle, or for senior citizens or anyone with cancer, AIDS, diabetes, or chronic liver or kidney disease. That means no raw or lightly cooked eggs (like in homemade Caesar salad dressing or egg nog) and no raw or rare, meat, poultry, or seafood.

7. a. Bon appetit!

8. b. The FDA allows veterinarians to use unapproved drugs, as long as those don't end up in the milk. But the FDA doesn't routinely monitor milk, and most states use a test that can only detect penicilin. In other words, no one's minding the store. (See "Cows on Drugs," Apr. 1990)

9. d. Unless you're diabetic, you're probably better off with sugar or honey. A teaspoon of either contains less than 25 calories. Other than promoting tooth decay, neither will hurt moderation. If you must avoid sugar, it's a toss-up: acesulfame K and saccharin may slightly increase your risk of cancer, and aspartame hasn't been adequately tested.

10. a. It's okay to trim mold from refrigerated hard cheese. Cut off at least an inch around it, and use a new wrap when you're done. It's not okay to remove the mold from bread, whole grains, flour, nuts, dried peas and beans, or peanut butter. These molds may be more dangerous, and can spread throughout the food even though you can't see them.

11. a. Pre-cooking in the microwave on "High" for 30 to 90 seconds just before cooking and discarding the juice will reduce the formation of risky heterocyclic amines (HAs). High temperatures and well-done meats mean more HAs. (See "Great Grilling," Jul./Aug. 1989)

12. c. The best guess of most health authorities is about 9,000.

13. c. Two-hours maximum for these highly perishable foods; the sooner the better.

14. e. Never underestimate bacteria.

15. b. Any company can slap "microwave-safe" or "microwave-approved" on its cookware. But at least a product with these labels is unlikely to melt in the microwave. That's more than you can say for a cottage cheese, margarine, or yogurt tub. (See "Micrwaves: The Heat is On," Jan./Feb. 1990)

16. a. There's more alcohol in coolers--an average six percent by volume, compared to four percent for beer.

17. c. Sulfur dioxide and other sulfiting agents can be lethal to some asthmatics. Despite their ominous-sounding names, the other additives are harmless (fumaric acid makes desserts tart, propylene glycol holds moisture, and titanum dioxide is a coloring).

18. a. Because artificial colors are used in such tiny amounts, any increased cancer risk is small. But it's still an increased risk.

19. b. when fat hits the heat source, risky poly cyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) can form. (See "Great Grilling," Jul./Aug. 1989)

20. d. Most symptoms show up after anywhere from two hours to two days. But some toxins in fish could hit you within a few minutes, and botulism could take as long as a week to surface.

21. c. After pork comes beef, then poultry.

22. d. Widely-used Yellow 5 causes asthma, hives, and a runny nose in a small percentage of consumers.

23. d. There's guarantee that bottled is any safer than tap, no matter what the label says. And if filters are not properly maintained, they can actually increase the level of contamination. (See "Water: Safe to Swallow?" Nov. 1988)

24. e. We all know about bulging cans. The others are rare, but each has caused at least one outbreak of botulism.

25. a. In 1988, the FDA found residues in 48% of the fish and shellfish it tested, in 46% of the fruit, in 38% of the vegetables and grains, and in 19% of the eggs and dairy productds.


Give youself one point for each correct answer on this tough test.


If your score is:

19 to 25 WOW! You're a food-safety superstar.

14 to 18 CONGRATULATIONS! You get an honorary degree from the CSPI School of Food Safety.

9 tO 13 WELL-DONE! (Your quiz, that is; not your meat). Most people score in this range.

5 to 8 SO-SO! (So-so that's why you've been feeling a little sick lately).

below 5 GULP! Call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline (800-535-4555, or 47-3333 in Washington, D.C.) before your next meal.
COPYRIGHT 1990 Center for Science in the Public Interest
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:food safety quiz
Publication:Nutrition Action Healthletter
Date:Oct 1, 1990
Previous Article:Crime and the modern chicken.
Next Article:Trans in trouble.

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