You are here

Selecting Fresh, Uncontaminated Foods

In early November, I spoke with a client in her early 50s who was going on about 6 weeks of experiencing chronic nausea and diarrhea without a clue as to why.

In reviewing her daily dietary and lifestyle choices, we realized that the onset of her symptoms coincided with regular purchases of pre-marinated chicken from her local grocery store - her sister-in-law out west had suggested this as a way to make healthy cooking easier after long work days at the hospital.

My hunch was that her local grocery store marinates older cuts of meat to mask bacterial slime and odour - a colleague in California told me about this practice many years ago.

Thankfully, within two days of doing away with pre-marinated cuts of chicken from her grocery store, the nausea and diarrhea stopped.

I'm open to the possibility that there were other variables at play, but this experience strengthened my belief that it's generally best to avoid pre-marinated raw meat. There have been a number of news stories over the years where former grocery store workers have revealed the pressure that is sometimes applied from those looking just at the bottom line to extend best-before dates on raw meats and baked goods.

Raw meat shouldn't come with slime or objectionable odour. Colour isn't always a reliable indicator of quality and freshness, as some suppliers have been known to soak their meat in solutions that impart a richer colour to their raw products.

While we're on the topic of selecting fresh, uncontaminated foods at the grocery store, I have long recommended avoiding pre-made fruit salads, especially those made with berries that are sometimes contaminated with mould and potentially with harmful mycotoxins produced by mould.

When soft fruits show a good amount of gray or white fuzzy mould, chances are good that it has penetrated into deeper layers of the fruit.

Our older son loves a good berry salad made with blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries. I strongly prefer to buy these berries separately and put berry salads together after giving them a good wash. Where I run into white fuzzy mould, I typically discard berries that are in contact with the contaminated fruits, as microbiology has taught me that it doesn't take much for root threads of mould to spread through soft and moist flesh.

If I encounter a rare case of mould on a plant food with hard flesh - like a carrot - that isn't easy penetrated, I have no problems chopping just that section off and using the rest.

I don't mean to promote paranoia with these thoughts - just sharing based on my own experiences and instincts. When I was in my mid-20s, I made myself quite sick by gobbling down a rotten apple while driving home from work late in the evening. It was too dark to see the flesh of the apple, and I had a cold at the time which is why I believe I didn't smell anything unusual. Since that time, I have been pretty mindful of eating uncontaminated foods and supplements.

If you have any thoughts on this topic that you'd like to share with our community of readers, please consider using the comments section in the Article Tools box below. Thank you.


Join more than 80,000 readers worldwide who receive Dr. Ben Kim's free newsletter

Receive simple suggestions to measurably improve your health and mobility, plus alerts on specials and giveaways at our catalogue

Please Rate This

Your rating: None Average: 5 (10 votes)
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.


Thank you for the informative article on pre-marinated meats and fruit salads, and your consistent practical approach to provide readers with alternative choices. I would just like to add that an ozonator is beneficial in removing mycotoxins from fruit that might not be exhibiting noticeable mold. Put the fruit in a glass bowl (do not ozonate plasticware) covered with water, and the ozonator diffuser at the bottom of the bowl, and ozonate for 10 - 15 minutes. Ozonating does not harm good bacteria or enzymes but does destroy the harmful ones.

I often work until 6:30, and that puts me home about 7, needing some down time, and then not eating until 9. That’s not good. I would be very concerned about buying prepared raw food, so what I’ve done is invest in an electric pressure cooker. Yes, it still takes time to put a recipe together, but once it is together and in the pot, it cooks quickly, in about a third the time as on the stove top (and with much less energy). I can make enough to freeze a meal or two. Two other nice things about the cooker: it can be set to start cooking at a later time, and it can very quickly thaw and heat up frozen food. It will also keep food hot for up to ten hours. One can put food in before going to work, set the timer, have it cooked and kept warm, so that when one gets home, dinner is ready. It’s been a good investment for me. I can depend on having quality ingredients, delicious recipes, and balanced meals.

The electric pressure cookers differ from the stove top pressure cookers in so far as they cook with steam. There is no steam spewing out the top as food cooks, so they don’t need a lot of water, and they don’t run out of water, causing the food to burn. One can also cook small amounts in them.

I have eaten them before and received mild to "OK" diarrhea in the past. It Usually "passes" by not eating food except for straight coffee and tea with Imodium. However, I think I have found a better method: After boiling bones for 48+ hrs for stock or broth, save the crumbly bits and freeze them. Ham bones work very well since the calcified knuckle is very large. In fairness, any crumbly bones will work. Take about measured table spoon at the outset and go from there. "The cheese that binds" has nothing on this.


Michael Ponzani

I confess that when I keep steak in the fridge for a few days, sometimes maybe a week, it often goes slimy and smells a bit off but I cook and eat it anyway. I actually find it's even more delicious and tender after it's been aged in the fridge.
I will also put old milk - raw cow's milk that is - in my kephir after it's gone a bit gluggy and smells off. It doesn't seem to harm the kephir bugs and it tastes fine. Raw milk costs twice as much as supermarket milk and I never throw it out just because it's a bit old and fermented.
Maybe I'm just blessed to have a strong gut, I'm not recommending this practice for everyone. In general I'd say it'd be best to follow Dr Ben's advice. 'just throwing in my perspective for what it's worth.

I am extremely sensitive to molds and have found that washing/soaking my blueberries in a 10:1 mixture of Bragg's organic vinegar and water for a few minutes then rinsing and storing in an open container helps extend their storage time without mold.

I am currently suffering from a parasitic infection and I have done a lot of research on them. Some sources of contamination that you may not think of are watercress and water chestnuts. Both can harbor water borne parasites. I have done some research on pork and it has convinced me that the ethnic/religious groups that abstain from pork do it for sanitary reasons that are valid. I no longer eat sushi or any undercooked or raw meats. Organic food from local farmers is my first choice.

Hopefully your client reported the grocery store to the local health officer for investigation. Eating infected chicken can lead to a lot worse than diarrhea.
Another good lesson here is to avoid eating anything in the dark when you can't inspect what you are putting in your mouth. Your rotten apple anecdote reminds me of the jest "What's worse than finding a maggot after you've taken a bite out of an apple?" The answer is "Finding half a maggot".

Amen to that, Brian! God forbid anyone feed this infected meat to their little ones. Their immune systems aren't nearly as developed as ours.

I worked at a small restaurant that got very few customers. The manager insisted on using meat that was past its freshness date. I have a good nose so I knew right away we shouldn't be serving the stuff. The waitress asked me to use steak that was disgusting, saying "that's what makes it prime." Just awful. Luckily the owner disagreed with these thoughts, but he wasn't always there. Not to insight paranoia, but I would caution anyone from going to a small-town restaurant with few customers, or anywhere that doesn't get significant traffic, since the food just sits around.

Thank you so much, Dr. Kim, for your helpful, practical, down-to-earth advice! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! <3

Yes, I politely walk out of super quiet small town restaurants with large extensive menus. I went to one "fancy" country inn that had about 6 pages on the menu, no customers and an over zealous manager (owner?) and I made an excuse and left with him following me. I've learned not to chance it when it comes to what I ingest into my body. I really mostly cook my own food now because of stuff like this. (But I'm super sensitive ~ I used to eat out frequently.)

My Mother taught me how to can tomatoes, green bean's, ect. . I have a pallet for taste, have to have as a cook for my family, or anyone else I cook for. Lot's of folk's get really sick from bad veggies, fruits, ect. . One need's to wash all fruit's and veggies they consume. My husband grows a garden every year, that he's been able to grow one. People that can't smell a fruit or veggie, to see if it's edible or not, should have someone to check it for them. You have to be able to smell food, in order to really taste it. I had 3 boy's, I taught them how to tell by just smelling of a fruit, to see if it was good to eat. I taught my daughter's-in-law's how to can, along with other women older than myself. Some fruit's and veggies look like they are really good, until you cut into them, by smelling them, not just tasting them. A tomato for instant, can really make you sick, even sending you to the hospital, if it's starting to go bad. Anything that's going bad can kill a person. Rule of thumb, cut a good tomato, then cut one that is going bad, smell the good one first, then the bad one, you can then tell the difference. I wash everything, fruit's, and veggies. There are people that blame grocery stores for them getting sick, from eating fresh fruit, and veggies, when it's their fault from not knowing how to preparing them. Smell of everything, only taste a very small amount, and be prepared to spit it out if it taste bad. If it taste bad be sure to not swallow any juice, and rinse your mouth out really good. It's better to throw out than to get sick from eating it. Keep safe and have a very happy New Year.

Thank you so much for this information! I have always thought that mold on fruit was not really harmful since fermented fruits are used to make alcohol! As I don't like to waste food, I often eat fruits (oranges, apples, berries, etc) after cutting out molded portions - Guess I'd better change my habits! Thanks again for your extremely helpful website! Best regards, Sandra (France)