Fewer Americans are eating seven “risky” foods that could carry infections, new research shows.

The researchers -- who included Erica Weis, MPH, of California’s health services department -- aren’t talking about creepy-crawly critters served up on Fear Factor or other TV shows. Instead, the risky foods they studied are much more down to earth.

On their list:

--Pink hamburgers

--Pink ground beef

--Raw fresh fish

--Raw oysters

--Raw/unpasteurized milk

--Runny eggs

--Alfalfa sprouts

Weis’ team chose those items for their potential to carry food-borne infections. Kids, seniors, and people with impaired immune systems are especially vulnerable to those illnesses, write Weis and colleagues.

Of course, safe storage, preparation, and quality are important for all foods and drinks.

Edging off the American Plate

Data came from two national surveys done by the Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network in 1998 and 2002. By telephone, participants were asked what they’d eaten in the past week.

The percentage of people who reported eating one or more risky foods fell from 31 percent in 1998 to 21 percent in 2002, Weis and colleagues found.

“Overall we are seeing a decline in risky food consumption,” Weis says in a news release. “That may be attributable to published media reports of foodborne outbreaks and outreach efforts by the public health community.”

But the researchers see room for improvement in certain groups. Men, Asian/Pacific Islanders, and kids with impaired immune systems were more likely to report eating those risky foods, the study shows.

The findings are being presented in Atlanta at the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases.

10 Rules for Keeping Food Safe Outdoors

By Miranda Hitti, reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

SOURCES: International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases, Atlanta, March 20-22, 2006. News release, American Society for Microbiology.