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October 8th, 2009:

Forget the soda tax, it’s time for a salad tax!

A bowl of saladFor the last few weeks, the tofu-and-sushi-eating crowd has been pushing to slap new taxes on soda and juice drinks in an effort to regulate what we eat. They say that sugary drinks are a public health issue because drinking too many can make you fat.

It is certainly true that consuming excessive amounts of any food, including soda, can lead to weight issues. But while enjoying cold coke on a hot summer day will never kill you, eating a salad just might.

New research out from the Center for Science in the Public Interest suggests that leafy greens, such as lettuce, spinach and cabbage, pose the greatest threat to public health of any of the foods regulated by the FDA. Since the FDA oversees about 80 percent of our food supply, that is a pretty damning statement.

The study, which looked at outbreaks of food-borne illnesses, acknowledged that most food-related illness goes unreported. But even so, it found at least 363 outbreaks and 13,568 individual illnesses caused by contaminated salads between 1990 and 2006.

That is one salad-induced outbreak every 16 days.

In one particularly high-profile outbreak in 2006,  E. coli-tainted spinach killed at least five people and left more than 200 others seriously ill.

And salad is just the beginning. Here is the complete list of the top ten most risky foods :

1: Leafy greens (363 outbreaks, 13,568 reported cases of illness)

2: Eggs (352 outbreaks, 11,163 reported cases of illness)

3: Tuna ( 268 outbreaks, 2341 reported cases of illness)

4: Oysters (132 outbreaks, 3409 reported cases of illness)

5: Potatoes (108 outbreaks, 3659 reported cases of illness)

6: Cheese (83 outbreaks, 2761 reported cases of illness)

7: Ice cream (74 outbreaks, 2594 reported cases of illness)

8: Tomatoes (31 outbreaks, 3292 reported cases of illness)

9: Sprouts (31 outbreaks, 2022 reported cases of illness)

10: Berries (25 outbreaks, 3397 reported cases of illness)

Taken together, these supposedly “healthy foods” have led to at least 1,467 outbreaks of food borne illness since 1990, making nearly 50,000 people sick. And that’s just the reported cases.You know what product did not make the list? Soda.

So instead of taxing a perfectly safe food product that is enjoyed by millions, why don’t we consider slapping a tax on the foods that actually hurt people, like salads (E. coli), sushi (mercury), tomatoes (salmonella) and berries (Cyclospora). Maybe we could use the revenue raised to buy food poison victims a nice cold coke to make their hospital stay a little more pleasant.

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