By Sandi Doughton , Seattle Times staff reporter

Our stories on the E. coli outbreak 30 years ago drew memories and advice

SINCE OUR FEB. 26 cover story on food safety, Bill Marler, and regulatory gaps 30 years after the Jack in the Box E. coli outbreak in the Pacific Northwest, federal agencies have issued 15 recalls for mislabeled, uninspected and contaminated food. That includes powdered infant formula laced with bacteria, granola bars tainted with listeria, and frozen organic strawberries sold at Costco and PCC Community Markets in Washington that, as of press time, had infected at least five people with hepatitis A.

Interestingly, none is on the list of foods Marler avoids, which attracted even more reader feedback. Some of you scoffed at what you saw as living in fear. Others pointed out that Marler works with people harmed by food poisoning every day, so it makes sense he would be careful. One discussion pointed out that whole cuts of meat, like steak, are most likely to be contaminated only on the surface. That makes them safer to eat less-well-done than hamburger, where pathogens can be mixed throughout. Thanks for all the comments — and keep them coming. Here are a couple more:

Weighing the risks

Everyone has a different risk tolerance and has to balance their desires with the risks. I know that eating some of these foods puts me at risk for foodborne illness, but I choose to eat them, anyway … it’s important that everyone knows the potential risk for various foods so that each person can make their own decisions. 

As a public health major, I took environmental health and food safety classes at UW, and even shadowed a health inspector as he inspected Seattle restaurants. When I was pregnant, my risk tolerance changed for 9 months. I actually consider myself fairly food-safety-conscious, but I do partake in over-easy eggs and rare steaks.

I don’t think, however, that everyone realizes that everyday convenience foods, like bagged salads, are potentially risky. When you’re pregnant, you are warned not to eat specific foods, like lunch meat and soft cheese. Maddeningly, however, recent multistate listeria outbreaks have included foods like ice cream, frozen vegetables and … prewashed bagged salad. 
— Elizabeth Espinosa-Snow

Go ahead and eat! 

Not surprising that [Bill Marler] would avoid these foods, especially as he is a food safety attorney. I’m sure he has seen or heard a lot of very, very gross things and is very aware of illnesses that can happen. For most folks, his fears are not an everyday issue with the foods identified in the article. Eat foods how you want! Make sure it is fresh, prepared in a clean environment and safety measures are taken. Bon appétit!
— De-De Herbert