Uh, oh. There’s a food recall. Suddenly, everyone in the office is making small talk over bacteria and your mother is calling to make sure you don’t buy romaine lettuce. As if you could miss the blaring headlines: Do NOT Eat X Food Right Now, Dangerous Outbreak Worsens. Recall Affects 65 States and Sickens Hundreds. Throw Away Your X!
Nah, I’m good. Every time there’s a recall, food poisoning outbreak, or other public notice regarding the safety of certain food products, I refuse to freak out. I’m eating my lettuce. I’m buying my cheese. I’m going on my merry way without fretting over food and germs.
If there’s a specific product I bought that’s been pulled from the shelves, sure. I’ll throw it out. I’m not stupid. But I don’t rove the recall list before going into the grocery store, and I certainly don’t avoid certain vegetables if they’ve gotten fewer than 100 people sick nationwide.
Despite my (maybe) reckless consumption of (maybe) risky foods, I’ve never actually experienced food poisoning — not from an outbreak, anyway. I’ve had it just twice in my life: once when I was too young to know what happened and could stomach nothing but carrots for a couple days (all of which I promptly threw up in an ice cream store), and once about a month ago after ordering late-night takeout. Didn’t check the safety rating on that 3 a.m. delivery — my bad. I’m a little stupider at 3 a.m. than I am while shopping for groceries.
Neither of those occasions could have been prevented by obsessively monitoring food recalls and outbreaks.
But that’s not even the real reason I don’t bother. Here’s why I won’t freak out over food recalls:
1. My mom raised me not to fear germs.
My mom was a physician’s assistant and had an interesting mentality when it came to my immune system: What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Which, medically speaking, is kind of true. Exposure to small amounts of germs builds up your immunity so you can resist a wider range of sicknesses.
Some parents sanitize their children constantly; my mom didn't care all that much. While I can't prove her negligence is the reason for my good luck, I will say that I rarely get sick. Like, shockingly seldom do I ever have a cold. I wash my hands when it makes sense to, obviously — but not every time I eat. Not every time I get off the subway. And definitely not every time I get home at the end of the day. Sorry if that’s gross. I can’t help it; it’s how I was raised!
So when it comes to avoiding food poisoning, I’m also fairly reckless. Thanks, Mom!
2. Grocery stores and restaurants probably saw the FDA/CDC/whatever agency notice long before you did.
And that grocery store or restaurant does not want you suing when you catch listeria. Chances are, they’ve pulled the product from their shelves before you even knew there was an issue. You can shop relatively safely.
And again, if you later see something you bought being cautioned against on the internet, you can toss it then. You don’t need to pore over the recall list while you’re browsing the supermarket aisles.
If you do happen to eat something before hearing of the related recall, you’ve just inadvertently played a game of Russian roulette with, like, the best chances ever. Which brings me to my most important reason…
3. Thousands or even millions of people have probably eaten said recall- or outbreak-affected food. And then 32 got sick.
Do that math for a sec. What are the odds? The chances of getting hit by a car are far more daunting. Do you check traffic incidents every day before you go outside? Do you avoid certain streets because cars recently crashed there? Didn’t think so.
Bottom line is that there are so many things that could get you sick or kill you at any given moment — and almost all of them are statistically more likely to cause you harm than a contaminated bag of lettuce.
Live your lives, everyone. You really don’t need the extra stress. But if you’re especially frightened of food poisoning, these easy-to-follow tips can help keep the sickness out of your life.
is the Healthy Eating Editor at The Daily Meal with a passion for podcasting and peanut butter. You can listen to her podcast and follower her health food Instagram .