These 7 Foods Are Most Likely to Cause Food Poisoning, CDC Says

Exercise caution when eating or preparing them.

Food brings people together. Whether it's a dinner party, a potluck, or a backyard barbecue, there's something about gathering around a meal that feels festive and fun. What's not so fun, though, is waking up in the middle of the night with cramps and chills because you ate something that didn't agree with you. We've probably all been there—but if we're careful, we don't have to let it happen again. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), seven foods in particular are the most likely culprits. They say these present the most imminent health risks to those who eat them. Read on to discover which popular items are most likely to give you food poisoning, according to the CDC.

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Raw and undercooked meat and seafood

coulotte steak

Your preference for a raw burger or steak could be putting you in harm's way, according to the CDC. Raw meat products can harbor Yersinia bacteria, which causes approximately 117,000 infections and 35 deaths in the U.S. annually; E. coli, which leads to life-threatening hemolytic uremic syndrome in up to 10 percent of infections; and Salmonella, which is associated with 1.35 million stateside infections and 420 U.S. deaths per year.

The CDC also reports that most raw poultry products are contaminated with Campylobacter, a type of bacteria that is associated with approximately 1.5 million illnesses in the U.S. each year. They may also be contaminated with Clostridium perfringens, a type of bacteria that causes illness in approximately 1 million U.S. residents each year; and Salmonella, as well as other types of bacteria.

"If you are eating chicken and notice the inside is still pinkish in color then I would throw it away," dietician Jesse Feder, CPT, RD, tells Best Life. "If the chicken is not properly cooked through you are at risk for Salmonella, Campylobacter, and/or Clostridium perfringens exposure."

To protect yourself, the CDC recommends cooking ground beef, pork, veal, and lamb to 160 degrees Fahrenheit; cooking ground and fresh poultry to 165 degrees Fahrenheit; cooking fresh beef, veal, and lamb to 145 degrees Fahrenheit; cooking fresh pork to 160 degrees Fahrenheit; and heating pre-cooked pork to 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

Fruits and vegetables

different types of veggies each in a plastic container of tupperware

While fresh fruits and vegetables are an essential part of a healthy diet, they are also a major source of food poisoning from E. coli, Listeria, and Salmonella.

To protect yourself, the CDC recommends washing or scrubbing fruits and vegetables with running water and only peeling them once they've been washed to avoid contaminating their flesh with bacteria from their peels. Feder agrees, saying that he recommends "thoroughly [washing] your fruits and vegetables after you buy them… The best way to prevent yourself from ingesting these bacteria is to thoroughly rinse and wash your produce you buy."

The CDC also notes that fruits and vegetables should be refrigerated at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or colder within two hours of preparation, or one hour if it's over 90 degrees outside.

Raw milk products

assorted cheeses on table

Though some people claim that raw milk products provide certain health benefits, experts say otherwise.

"None of the claims made by the raw milk advocates that we have examined…can withstand scientific scrutiny," the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) explains.

In fact, the CDC notes that raw milk and products made from raw milk are frequently contaminated with Campylobacter, Cryptosporidium, E. coli, Listeria, and Salmonella, all of which can cause serious illness. To play it safe, the CDC cautions against drinking or eating any raw milk products and sticking to those made with pasteurized milk instead.

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two over easy eggs cracked in a frying pan, smart person habits

Love a sunny-side-up egg? It could be putting your health at risk. Eggs may be contaminated with Salmonella, which can cause food poisoning and may lead to more serious illness or even death, the CDC says.

To protect yourself, the agency recommends keeping eggs refrigerated at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below, using pasteurized eggs in recipes that call for raw or lightly cooked eggs, cooking egg dishes to a temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, and refrigerating eggs or any foods that have eggs in them within two hours of preparing them or one hour on a day that's 90 degrees or above. The CDC notes that purchasing exclusively pasteurized eggs may help reduce your risk of illness, as well.

Seafood and raw shellfish

Shellfish Royal Marriages

Raw seafood and shellfish are most commonly associated with Salmonella and Vibrio vulnificus, the latter of which is most frequent in oysters and is associated with 80,000 infections and 100 deaths in the U.S. each year. Vibrio vulnificus wound infections (when a wound comes into contact with raw or undercooked seafood, its juices, or drippings) result in the death of approximately 20 percent of those infected, often within days of first becoming sick.

Seafood should be cooked to 145 degrees Fahrenheit, and should be reheated to 160 degrees Fahrenheit, the CDC says.


Broccoli Sprouts

Love putting raw sprouts on your salad? You might want to think twice next time you belly up to the salad bar.

"The warm, humid conditions needed to grow sprouts are also ideal for germs to grow. Eating raw or lightly cooked sprouts, such as alfalfa, bean, or any other sprout, may lead to food poisoning from Salmonella, E. coli, or Listeria," the CDC says. They say sprouts are best—and safest—enjoyed after cooking. "Thoroughly cooking sprouts kills the harmful germs and reduces the chance of food poisoning."

Raw flour


You probably already know you shouldn't eat raw cookie dough because of the risk of food poisoning due to raw eggs—but did you know you shouldn't be eating raw flour, either? "Flour is typically a raw agricultural product that hasn't been treated to kill germs," the CDC writes. "Harmful germs can contaminate grain while it's still in the field or at other steps as flour is produced. Bacteria are killed when food made with flour is cooked."

Next time you're baking, stay safe and wait to enjoy the finished product.

Sarah Crow
Sarah Crow is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!, where she focuses on celebrity news and health coverage. Read more
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