First, fats were bad. Then carbs and sugar. Now there's mercury in fish, hormones in dairy—even peanut butter and spinach have been linked to dangerous bacterial outbreaks. But take heart: Marion Nestle, PhD, author of What to Eat (North Point), says, "The bigger issue in public health nutrition is obesity. So enjoy your meals—in moderation." If you're still food-phobic, you can take stress off the menu with just a few changes in the way you shop and cook.

Meat and Poultry

The Scare Factor

Six different hormones fatten up our cattle, and over 20 million pounds of antibiotics are fed to livestock annually to prevent infections from unsanitary conditions. On the bright side, mad cow disease is only a remote threat since the FDA changed the way ranchers feed cattle, and you won't catch avian flu from a plate of wings—if they're prepared safely.

What It Means to You
Hormone residues have a tenuous link to increased cancer risk; the bigger concern is antibiotics. Experts believe their overuse in livestock allows harmful bacteria to develop resistance. About 70 percent of bacteria that cause hospital infections have become resistant to at least one antibiotic; some of these drugs are related to those used in cattle and chickens.

Shopping Strategy
Buy beef, chicken, turkey, and pork that's marked organic or antibiotic-free. Look for beef labeled steroid- or hormone-free, too (it's illegal to give pigs and poultry hormones).

You Can Also…
Remove skin and fatty tissue to reduce the amount of pollutants and pesticides you might consume, and cook meat properly (beef steaks and roasts to 145°, pork to 160°, and chicken to 165°). Be wary of cross-contamination in the kitchen: Don't let anything that touched raw meat come in contact with ready-to-serve food.

Dairy

The Scare Factor

Dairy cattle are routinely injected with genetically modified bovine growth hormone (also known as rbGH or rbST) to increase milk production. The injections increase another powerful hormone, IGF-1, in the cows' milk.

What It Means to You
The government says the amounts of IGF-1 found in milk are negligible, but some experts believe exposure to IGF-1 may raise the risk of breast cancer. Many countries around the world have banned the injections due to possible health risks.

Shopping Strategy
Look for dairy products that are labeled rbGH- or rbST-free. This doesn't necessarily mean you'll be limited to buying organic; many conventional farms have stopped using the injections, too.

You Can Also…
Skip dairy altogether and switch to milk, yogurt, and cheese made from soy or rice. You can find organic versions of these that have also been calcium-enriched.

Dr. Nestle's prescription for produce and fish