"CSPI's real concern is helping the FDA to regulate foods" DeWaal said. "They don't have mandatory food safety plans -- or frequent inspection -- they do it sporadically, but they don't do it consistently."
Strawberries, blackberries and raspberries are just a few of the fruits the CSPI flagged as having contributed to 25 outbreaks between 1990 and 2006, causing 3,397 illnesses.
While these fruits may surprise some by their presence on a list of risky foods, DeWaal said the result did not surprise her as the CSPI has known for years about the potential for berries to be contaminated with pathogens.
Perhaps the most serious case was in 1997, when more than 2.6 million pounds of strawberries became contaminated with Hepatitis A, a virus that causes liver inflammation. The contamination occurred after an infected factory worker in Baja California, Mexico, handled the fruits, and the outbreak prompted a strawberry recall.
"That was a disaster," Ayoob said. "That kind of thing does put everyone on guard, however. It helps food producers and handlers enforce penalties and laws."