Just like David Letterman’s act, top ten lists are getting long in the tooth. Yet the “top ten” clichéd drumbeat continues unabated, destined to haunt our conscious lives until the day we die.  Retirement advisors, funeral homes– a one to ten ranking is no doubt in our future if we only Google it.

There are a million and one “top ten” lists on the Web. In fact, one Web site, http://www.toptenz.net, is nothing but a compilation of top ten lists. That Web page today features “Top Ten Celebrity Meltdowns,” “Top Ten Countries to drink local alcohol,” “Top ten British crime films.” Thanks but no thanks.

Yet the device of a list somehow connects with the inner student in all of us, when we studied the top 10 spelling words that our second grade teacher assured us would be on the quiz. It is a Facebook-friendly way of making some kind of community order in a chaotic and incomprehensible life.

Into the backdrop of the contrived gimmick that is the top ten list, I think the Center for Science in the Public Interest shows us that even a serious minded group will reach for the low hanging fruit. They follow in the well worn and dubious path of other publicity hungry consumer groups who have created lists to serve their interests. Top of mind, of course, is the notorious “dirty dozen” list by the Environmental Working Group.   Here is the CSPI news release on the Top Ten riskiest foods:

From their news release:

WASHINGTON—Leafy greens, eggs, and tuna are on the top of a list of the 10 riskiest foods regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Those and seven other foods account for nearly 40 percent of all foodborne outbreaks linked to FDA-regulated food. That's no reason to forgo the occasional salad Niçoise, says the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which authored the report, nor need one pass up tomatoes, sprouts, and berries, even though those foods are also on the list. But the nonprofit watchdog group says the presence of so many healthy foods on such a list is exactly why the United States Senate should follow the House and pass legislation that reforms our fossilized food safety laws.

TK: To create a list that includes leafy greens in a list of the “top ten” riskiest foods is unfortunate. With tens of millions of consumers served safely every day, does the CSPI really believe that leafy greens are “risky?”  How about the half-pound hamburger or the cheesy fries?  It would have been better if CSPI would have simply sent out an email to reporters following the food safety issue and made their scientific and public policy expertise available for interviews on the need for Congress to pass a food safety bill. As it is, CSPI has only earned a spot on my top ten list of dubious list makers.