Top Foods Most Likely to Cause Food Poisoning


Improper food storage, preparation, and hygiene can lead to food poisoning. Some foods to pay special attention to while preparing that commonly cause food poisoning include meat products, leafy greens, and rice.

Food poisoning happens when people consume food that is contaminated with harmful bacteria, parasites, viruses or toxins.

Also known as foodborne illness, it can cause a range of symptoms, most commonly stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and loss of appetite.Pregnant women, young children, the elderly and people with chronic illnesses have a greater risk of becoming ill with food poisoning.

Certain foods are more likely to cause food poisoning than others, especially if they are improperly stored, prepared or cooked.

Here are the top 9 foods that are most likely to cause food poisoning.

1. Poultry
Raw and undercooked poultry such as chicken, duck and turkey has a high risk of causing food poisoning.
This is mainly due to two types of bacteria, Campylobacter and Salmonella, which are commonly found in the guts and feathers of these birds.
These bacteria often contaminate fresh poultry meat during the slaughtering process, and they can survive up until cooking kills them .

In fact, research from the UK, US and Ireland found that 41–84% of raw chicken sold in supermarkets was contaminated with Campylobacter bacteria and 4–5% was contaminated with Salmonella.

The rates of Campylobacter contamination were slightly lower in raw turkey meat, ranging from 14–56%, while the contamination rate for raw duck meat was 36% .
The good news is that although these harmful bacteria can live on raw poultry, they’re completely eliminated when meat is cooked thoroughly.

To reduce your risk, ensure poultry meat is cooked through completely, do not wash raw meat and ensure that raw meat does not come in contact with utensils, kitchen surfaces, chopping boards and other foods, since this can result in cross-contamination .

2. Vegetables and Leafy Greens
Vegetables and leafy greens are a common source of food poisoning, especially when eaten raw.
In fact, fruits and vegetables have caused a number food poisoning outbreaks, particularly lettuce, spinach, cabbage, celery and tomatoes .
Vegetables and leafy greens can become contaminated with harmful bacteria, such as E. coli, Salmonella and Listeria. This can occur across various stages of the supply chain.
Contamination can occur from unclean water and dirty runoff, which can leach into the soil that fruits and vegetables are grown in.
It can also occur from dirty processing equipment and unhygienic food preparation practices. Leafy greens are especially risky because they are often consumed raw .

In fact, between 1973 and 2012, 85% of the food poisoning outbreaks in the US that were caused by leafy greens such as cabbage, kale, lettuce and spinach were traced back to food prepared in a restaurant or catering facility.
To minimize your risk, always wash salad leaves thoroughly before eating. Do not purchase bags of salad mix that contain spoiled, mushy leaves and avoid pre-prepared salads that have been left to sit at room temperature.

3. Fish and Shellfish
Fish and shellfish are a common source of food poisoning.
Fish that has not been stored at the correct temperature has a high risk of being contaminated with histamine, a toxin produced by bacteria in fish.
Histamine is not destroyed by normal cooking temperatures and results in a type of food poisoning known as scombroid poisoning. It causes a range of symptoms including nausea, wheezing and swelling of the face and tongue.
Another type of food poisoning caused by contaminated fish is ciguatera fish poisoning (CFP). This occurs due to a toxin called ciguatoxin, which is mostly found in warm, tropical waters.

At least 10,000–50,000 people who live in or visit tropical areas get CFP each year, according to estimates. Like histamine, it is not destroyed by normal cooking temperatures and therefore the harmful toxins are present after cooking.
Shellfish such as clams, mussels, oysters and scallops also carry a risk of food poisoning. Algae that are consumed by shellfish produce many toxins, and these can build up in the flesh of shellfish, posing danger to humans when they consume the shellfish

Store-bought shellfish are usually safe to eat. However, shellfish caught from unmonitored areas may be unsafe due to contamination from sewage, stormwater drains and septic tanks.

To reduce your risk, purchase store-bought seafood and ensure you keep it chilled and refrigerated before cooking. Make sure fish is cooked through, and cook clams, mussels and oysters till the shells open. Throw away the shells that don’t open.


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