11 Foods That Cause The Most Foodborne Ilness

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According to the CDC, 9 million foodborne illnesses are estimated to be caused each year by major pathogens acquired in the United States.

Using data from outbreak-associated illnesses, the CDC estimated annual US foodborne illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths are attributable to each of 17 food commodities.

The CDC attributed 46% of illnesses to produce and found that more deaths were linked to poultry than to any other commodity.

The CDC found that illnesses were attributed to plant commodities and most deaths to land animal commodities. They attributed 46% of illnesses to produce, with the large number of norovirus illnesses a major driver of this result.

More illnesses were attributed to leafy vegetables (22%) than to any other commodity; illnesses associated with leafy vegetables were the second most frequent cause of hospitalizations (14%) and the fifth most frequent cause of death (6%).

Based on the above information, Good Housekeeping’s Kathleen Corlett put together a list of 11 foods that cause most illness, and what you can do to keep your family safe.

#11: Beans and Grains
Seeds and beans thrive in warm and humid environments — environments that are also attractive for bacteria like Salmonella or E. coli. As the spring 2011 outbreak in Germany showed, bean sprouts are particularly risky. To be safe, skip raw sprouts on sandwiches and in salads; eat them only when cooked thoroughly, as in a stir fry.

#10: Mollusks
Oysters, clams, mussels or other bivalves can be contaminated with deadly bacteria or parasites. Before buying, check that the shellfish were taken from safe waters and, to be extra cautious, cook before eating.

#9: Eggs
The more Salmonella bacteria present in an egg, the higher your chance of getting sick. That’s why it’s important to refrigerate eggs (on a shelf, not in the fridge door) as soon as you get back from the supermarket. Cook till yolks are firm.

#8: Fish
Follow the same defrosting rules you use for meat. The safe ways: in a resealable bag or container in the fridge; in a sealed bag and submerged in cold water (changing the water every 30 minutes); or microwave. Do not thaw on the counter; the warmer temperatures of your kitchen can cause bacteria to multiply.

#7: Pork
The rules for safe cooking have changed: Cook pork roasts or chops until internal temperature, as measured on a meat thermometer, reaches at least 145 degrees F. Then — this is important — let the meat rest for three minutes before cutting or eating. Ground pork needs to reach 160 degrees F.

#6: Tomato and Cucumber
Wash veggies with cold running water and dry with a clean paper towel. Make sure the sink — and your hands — are clean (a scrub with hot, soapy water should do it).

#5: Fruits and Nuts
To keep up on all-too-common fruit and nut recalls, or contaminated products check stopfoodborneillness.org or the government’s foodsafety.gov/recalls.

#4: Dairy
Avoid unpasteurized milk, which can transmit serious infectious diseases. Especially at risk: those with weakened immune systems, pregnant women, young children, and the elderly.

#3: Beef
Ground beef can be contaminated with deadly strains of E. coli bacteria, like the notorious O157. When making burgers or meat loaf, always use an instant-read meat thermometer and cook to 160 degrees F.; checking color isn’t a reliable test since the meat can turn brown before it’s fully cooked. For whole cuts, 145 degrees is safe.

#2: Leafy Greens
Wash and dry with a clean paper towel. Exception: If the produce is labeled “prewashed,” “triple-washed,” or “ready-to-eat,” don’t rinse it. You risk picking up germs from around your kitchen. At salad bars, check that greens are replaced regularly.

#1: Poultry
Avoid cross-contamination by keeping chicken and turkey packages in sealed containers or bags, where they can’t leak on to fresh foods. Use separate cutting boards for poultry and produce (ditto for raw meat). And don’t place cooked chicken (or meat) on the same platter you used to carry it to the stove or grill uncooked.

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Spence Cooper
Inquisitive foodie with a professional investigative background and strong belief in the organic farm to table movement. Author of Bad Seeds: A FriendsEAT Guide to GMO's. Buy Now!
Spence Cooper


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