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9 Foods Most Likely to Cause Food Poisoning (Slideshow)

9 Foods Most Likely to Cause Food Poisoning (Slideshow)

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Be careful when you eat these!

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Leafy Greens

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Because they’re uncooked and eaten by so many, leafy greens are one the most common food poisoning culprits, accounting for 8,836 reported cases of food-borne illness between 1998 and 2008, according to the CDC. Always make sure that vegetables are washed thoroughly before they’re eaten.

Raw Eggs

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The risk of ingesting salmonella from raw eggs might be lower than it used to be, but there have still been more than 11,000 egg-related cases in recent years. Salmonella contaminates eggs before they’re even hatched, and is impossible to detect, so while those sunny side-up eggs might look tempting, opt for scrambled instead if you want to be safe.


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You might be thinking that ground beef is the most common cause of meat-related food poisoning, but it’s actually chicken that’s the worst offender, resulting in nearly 7,000 illnesses, according the SCPI (ground beef is in second place). A good rule of thumb is to treat any raw meat as if it’s poisonous, and be sure to thoroughly clean everything that comes in contact with it. And don’t rinse off your raw chicken before you cook it; that doesn’t accomplish anything except splashing bacteria everywhere.

Oysters and Raw Shellfish

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Oysters and clams are pulled right out of the water (sometimes in less than savory conditions) and are eaten raw, so obviously they’re a little risky. Always smell oysters and other raw shellfish before you eat it; if it smells like anything other than the sea, toss it. Also, always make sure that they’re from a reputable source.


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Sprouts are one of the most difficult vegetables to thoroughly clean, and they also grow in warm, wet conditions — the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. Most experts agree that you’d be smart to just steer clear of them entirely.


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Believe it or not, melons, and cantaloupes in particular, are a common source of food poisoning, because they’re usually not washed before being eaten. Bacteria can be transmitted to the edible part by the knife as it cuts through the rind, and if you’re eating a wedge with your hands it’s also difficult to avoid the rind. Use a stiff brush and water to scrub it clean before eating.

Raw Milk

You don’t encounter raw milk too often outside of the farm, but we’d strongly advise against drinking any if you’re offered. Because it’s unpasteurized, you take the same risks drinking raw milk as you would by eating raw meat. This risk is an especially easy one to overcome: only drink pasteurized milk!



All fish needs to be kept very cold from the second it comes out of the water to when it hits the pan, and tuna in particular is especially susceptible to scombrotoxin, which can cause serious cramps and headaches, if it’s stored above 60 degrees Fahrenheit. When you buy fresh fish, make sure it makes its way into your refrigerator immediately.


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When you’re out picking fresh berries, it’s always wise to wash them before eating them, but frozen berries have also contributed to several outbreaks, including a 2013 hepatitis A scare. Don’t forget to wash frozen berries too!

These Restaurant Foods Are Most Likely To Cause Food Poisoning

Nothing will ruin your evening — and week — like a bout of food poisoning. You know all kinds of ways to steer clear of food poisoning in your home, like getting rid of your cracked dishes instead of trying to get one more use out of them, and being cautious of cross-contamination while you cook. But what about when you're eating out? You're putting a lot of trust in what goes on in a kitchen, and while there are sure signs something's not right (like dirty bathrooms and utensils that haven't been washed), that doesn't cover all your potential pitfalls. Are some menu choices more likely to leave you running for the bathroom?

Absolutely, and sometimes, food poisoning just happens. Some foods are definitely more prone to make you sick and sometimes, it's through no fault of the restaurant. It might be how you order something prepared, or it might be contaminated from the source. So, if you have a big night out planned, a meeting in the morning, or a fun weekend you're looking forward to, what should you skip to help make sure you're not going to ruin it?

View as List Food Poisoning Facts

You ate at one of your favorite restaurants last night, and got sick several hours later. You blame it on the salmon, or maybe the salad. Should you call the restaurant or health department? It’s hard to pinpoint the cause of food poisoning, or even to be sure that it is food poisoning. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions.

What kind of food is most likely to make me sick?

Nearly any food, but seafood, produce, poultry, beef and eggs are the top five culprits. Raw foods and undercooked meats and seafood, as well as inadequately refrigerated foods, are riskiest, since refrigeration retards the growth of bacteria, and cooking at high temperatures kills most of them. Home-cooked meals are at least as risky as restaurant food.

What organism made me sick?

You’ll probably never know unless you go to a doctor and have a stool test. There are more than 200 foodborne infections, caused by bacteria (notably Campylobacter, Salmonella, Staphylococcus, and E.coli), viruses, and parasites. Toxins in the food (such as mushroom toxin and toxins from some fish) can also cause illness.

What number of bugs = illness?

It depends on the organism. With some types it can take 100 million organisms, but with very virulent ones, a few organisms can cause illness. Viruses generally have a low infectious dose, and they multiply much faster than bacteria. It also depends on the age and health of the person eating the food. People with impaired or underdeveloped immunity, such as the elderly, young children, pregnant women, and those with certain chronic diseases (such as cancer or HIV), can become sick from smaller doses. They are also at higher risk for serious complications.

How long does it take before I get sick?

The incubation period can be anywhere from one hour to several weeks (the latter is rare). For the most common infections, it takes 4 to 48 hours for symptoms to appear. For parasites it can take more than a month. The longer the time lag, the harder it is to figure out the cause. So don't assume it was your most recent meal that did it.

Why do only some people get sick?

The food may be unevenly contaminated, so not everyone will consume the same amount of organisms. And some people are simply more susceptible to certain infections.

How long does the illness last?

Usually a day or two, but sometimes several days or even weeks, depending on the type of organism and the individual's health.

Food that looks or smells bad is more likely to make me sick, right?

No. The microorganisms that cause spoilage are different from those that cause food poisoning, which seldom produce perceptible changes in food. Thus, food that looks and smells okay is just as likely to make you sick as food that looks spoiled.

How do I know it isn't a stomach flu?

There is no such thing as stomach flu the influenza virus doesn't cause diarrhea and vomiting in adults. But it may well be an intestinal virus, such as rotavirus or norovirus. These "stomach bugs" are highly contagious and travel in feces food preparers or handlers who don't wash their hands thoroughly after using the bathroom are the most common source of outbreaks. You get infected from contaminated food or water or from touching contaminated objects and then touching your mouth or nose.

Nobody got food poisoning in my grandmother's day. Why is that?

In some cases, foods or organisms are different today, according to the Institute of Food Technologists. Foods may contain new organisms, and organisms can evolve to become more virulent. In any case, people back then did get sick, but they usually didn't know it was food poisoning. Food is much safer today, thanks in large part to preservatives and better knowledge about food handling and preparation.

When should I go to the doctor?

If you have bloody stool, fever, severe abdominal pain, or prolonged or severe vomiting or diarrhea, or are very dehydrated, you should see a doctor. The elderly, young children, pregnant women, and anyone with a weakened immune system should seek medical attention even for milder symptoms.

Should I call the restaurant where I ate?

Yes, but don't be accusatory, since you can't be sure you got sick there. Don't expect them to accept responsibility, but if other people also call, the restaurant will know there is a problem. Better, call the local heath department.

It should come as no surprise, but lettuce makes the list.

Sure, it’s good for you — and necessary in all proper salads — but it can also be problematic.The New Republic writes that the romaine scare from last year may have been tied to the fact that the E. coli strain was also linked to Arizona’s water source used to irrigate the crops. But, there’s more to it. Back in 2013, Modern Farmer actually stated that lettuce is often harvested with plenty of microorganisms nearby. The fact that it’s so close to the dirt doesn’t fare well.


Some shellfish, like oysters, are really good for you. Sadly, eating shellfish comes with a risk. Shellfish often eat foods that are poisonous to humans, so eating them could lead to you getting food poisoning because of the buildup of poison in their system. There are four main ways you can get poisoned: Amnestic, diarrheal, neurotoxic, and paralytic. All of those sound terrible, so be sure to cook your shellfish thoroughly.

Avoiding Food Poisoning

Any food can be contaminated with bacteria from unclean surfaces, food handlers who don't wash their hands, or improper preparation.

May 22, 2000 -- Any food can be contaminated with bacteria from unclean surfaces, food handlers who don't wash their hands, or improper preparation. Food items in the following four categories are the ones most likely to make you and your family sick.

  • Ground meats: Hamburger and ground meats of all kinds are very susceptible to bacterial contamination. One of the worst culprits is the E. coli 0157:H7 bacteria, which can produce a deadly toxin. To prevent infection, cook all hamburger thoroughly to a temperature of 160 degrees. The center should never be pink. Don't use the same plate for raw hamburgers and cooked ones. Don't let the juices from raw meat drip onto prepared foods while shopping or in the refrigerator. Always wash hands, surfaces, and utensils with hot soapy water after they are in contact with raw meat.
  • Chicken and turkey: Raw or undercooked poultry can be contaminated with Campylobacter or Salmonella, both common causes of food-transmitted infections. Wash hands, preparation surfaces, and utensils with hot, soapy water before and after handling raw poultry. Don't let raw poultry juices drip onto prepared foods while shopping or in the refrigerator.

Cook all poultry products thoroughly to a temperature of 180 degrees in the thigh and 170 degrees in the breast. If you don't have a thermometer, make sure there is no pink left inside and the juices run clear. Warm temperatures allow Salmonella bacteria to grow, so always serve poultry hot and refrigerate leftovers promptly.

Sue Licher is a freelance writer from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where she lives with her husband Mark and whichever of their kids happens to be back in the nest for the moment. She has written about health, energy conservation, business marketing, and other subjects for a variety of publications, television programs, and web sites.

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Undercooked meat puts you at risk for potentially life-threatening illness from a subtype of E. coli bacteria called O157:H7. An outbreak in 2014 linked to ground beef contaminated with this type of E. coli sickened 12 people from four different states. "Your risk largely depends on the number of cows making up your ground beef," says Michael Schmidt, PhD, professor at the department of microbiology and immunology at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC). "The greater the number of cows the greater chance of having something that was not intended to be in the meat." Ground beef is riskier than specific cuts of meat that come from a single cow. Regardless, cook burgers or any beef to an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees to kill E. coli.

This Salad and Sandwich Staple Is a Surprisingly Common Cause of Food Poisoning&mdashHere&rsquos How to Stay Safe

Add raw sprouts to your list of handle-with-care foods.

When it comes to food safety, there’s a lot of confusion out there surrounding which foods can and can’t cause foodborne illnesses. Picturing a common cause of food poisoning often means imagining some sort of meat or eggs—Salmonella and eggstend to go together pretty often𠅋ut plenty of other foods can potentially cause foodborne illnesses. Think potato salad, some fruits, and, surprising to some, raw sprouts.

That’s right—raw sprouts such as bean sprouts, alfalfa sprouts, and more are a surprisingly common source of foodborne illnesses, particularly in years past. The CDC includes raw alfalfa and bean sprouts among the foods most likely to cause food poisoning, and sprouts were investigated as the source of a foodborne outbreak once in 2018 (for Salmonella) and three times in 2016 (twice for Salmonella and once for E. coli).

A contaminated sprout�used outbreak occurred every year between 1995 and 2011 in the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’s Sprouts were first recognized as a potential source of food poisoning in the mid-1990s and have caused several outbreaks in the last two decades� between 1998 and 2011 alone. So sprouts have a proven history of involvement in foodborne outbreaks, but what makes these seemingly benign garnishes so potentially dangerous?

Sprouts grow best in warm, humid conditions, which can also lead to the growth of germs when sprouts are eaten raw (as they often are, especially in sprouts sandwiches), it can lead to food poisoning from Salmonella, E. coli, or Listeria. Cooking sprouts thoroughly can kill any harmful germs, reducing the chance of food poisoning, though sprouts are rarely served that way.

Plus, 𠇌ontamination in these cases generally tends to come from the seeds,” says Travers Anderson, R&D Group Manager at Clorox.

According to Anderson, sprouts are grown hydroponically in clear water with seeds brought in from fields if the seeds are contaminated, the sprouts grown from them will be contaminated, too (yes, even if you grow your own sprouts at home from purchased seeds).

What can be done about this common cause of foodborne illness?

First, Clorox is working with the EPA to develop a protocol for treating alfalfa sprout contamination by sanitizing seeds in a dilute bleach solution before rinsing them with water and using them to grow sprouts. This can help prevent the growth of potentially contaminated sprouts but if you’re still concerned, there’s an easy step you can take at home, as well.

“If you’re really concerned about some kind of contamination issue, you can create a very dilute bleach solution that you can rinse your fruits, your veggies, your sprouts, anything like that in,” Anderson says. “You can look on [a Clorox bleach] label and find the instructions for how to do that.”

If you do choose to play it safe with your raw sprouts, you’re not the only one𠅍ilute bleach solutions are often used to sanitize fruits and vegetables.

“It’s a practice that’s used all through the agriculture industry to make sure your food is safe,” says Naymesh Patel, vice president of R&D at Clorox.

So there you have it—steps are being taken to make sprouts safer for everyone, but there are things you can do at home to also make sprouts safer. If you’re dining out and are concerned about the potential of getting sick from sprouts (which is unlikely but possible), carefully consider what you’re ordering. If you’re immunocompromised or especially cautious, you might want to order something else.

This is the Ingredient Most Likely To Give You Food Poisoning, Says a New CDC Report

Eek&mdashthe culprit is definitely in your fridge and your freezer right now.

According to a report released on Thursday by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the incidence of foodborne illness has remained largely unchanged in the United States in the past several years. Though this sounds scary and upsetting upon first read, it actually means that the tools that the nation’s regulatory agencies use to identify outbreaks are improving. When it comes to information and news about food safety, more is better.

That being said, the CDC reported that the most common causes of sickness from foods—Salmonella and Campylobacter𠅊re not improving. “The number of human infections caused by Campylobacter and Salmonella, especially serotype Enteritidis, remains high,” the report reads. The perpetrator most likely to give you a foodborne illness? Chicken.

Salmonella can come from a variety of foods, but the most common causes are chicken, eggs, produce, beef and pork. The other big cause of infection, Campylobacter, is near-exclusively linked to chicken. Both Salmonella and Campylobacter are spread through animal feces (and again, are most often found in raw chicken products).

The USDA recently reported that in the past year, 22 percent of production plants did not meet standards for limiting Salmonella contamination in chicken parts. They released a follow-up statement saying that they’re working to improve their approach to fighting bacteria prone to causing foodborne illness.

However, according to Tony Corbo of Food and Water Watch, an advocacy group that supports stricter food safety regulations, Salmonella and Campylobacter are actually allowed in raw poultry sold in supermarkets. This is why health experts so heavily emphasize the importance of proper poultry handling and cooking at home.

We can&apost stress this enough, either. For must-know rules to follow when prepping and cooking chicken safely, check out this helpful guide.

Food Poisoning: How Long It Lasts + What to Do When You’ve Eaten Something Bad

Turns out, taking a chance on those leftover chicken salad sandwiches that had been sitting out on the free table at work all day wasn’t such a great idea.

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Now you’re home with dreaded food poisoning, splitting time between the couch and the bathroom.

While we think of food poisoning, or foodborne illness, as one thing, it’s actually a broad term that encompasses more than 250 kinds of disease-causing germs, including Salmonella, E. coli and rotavirus. And those germs can cause varying degrees of nausea, diarrhea and vomiting, depending on a number of factors.

Gastroenterologist Christine Lee, MD, answers some commonly asked questions about how to get through a bout of food poisoning.

Q: How do you get food poisoning?

A: You get food poisoning from eating or drinking food that is contaminated with pathogenic viruses, bacteria, toxins, parasites or toxic chemicals. It doesn’t always come from rotten or spoiled food. It could come from perfectly good food that was just improperly handled or cooked.

Q: How long does it take food poisoning to set in after you eat something contaminated?

A: It depends on what the culprit is, how much was consumed and a person’s individual immune system. For example, common food poisoning like Bacillus cereus can set in within 6 to 16 hours. But there are some foodborne illnesses that are latent, meaning they have to reproduce in your system and get into a large load. Hepatitis A virus, for example, can take 15 to 50 days to present.

But in general, most common types take 4 to 24 hours to set in.

Q: How long does food poisoning last?

A: That also depends on the individual. In general, 1 to 10 days, but it can be longer in some circumstances.

Q: Can food poisoning give you a fever?

A: Yes, viral or bacterial food poisoning can sometimes produce fever.

Q: What should you eat during food poisoning?

A: It’s best to stick to a BRAT diet. That would be things like bread, rice, rice pudding, applesauce, toast and bananas. Something bland. Or chicken noodle soup.

You want to stay away from food that is more challenging for your digestive track to digest, like greasy, fried or spicy foods.

You want to drink lots of fluids, and not just water. Water is isotonic. If you’re ill and you’re losing a lot of water through diarrhea, or if you have a fever and you’re sweating, the best replenishment isn’t exactly water. It really should be a not-isotonic fluid. That would be something with salt, sugar or electrolytes in it, like Gatorade, broth, ginger ale or juice. When you consume that kind of fluid, you tend to keep it in your body — it’s less likely to just run off or go straight to your kidneys where you’ll urinate it out or you have diarrhea output.

Consult your physician if you have a medical condition that limits your sodium consumption, such as heart, liver or kidney disease.

Q: What can you take for food poisoning?

A: Bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto Bismol®) is generally fine to take. It has soothing and anti-inflammatory effects. But be aware that it will turn your stool to black due to the bismuth. (This is normal but can be alarming if you’re not expecting it!)

I would not recommend taking something like loperamide (Imodium®) to stop diarrhea, as it’s better to expel the toxin out of your system rather than keeping it in.

Q: Should you go to the doctor if you have food poisoning?

A: For most of us with healthy immune systems, we can usually recover from food poisoning on our own. As long as you’re able to keep food or liquids down, then you can try to hydrate at home and let it run its course.

But if your nausea is so severe that you’re unable to keep any fluids down, you need to seek medical help. IV fluids can be administered for hydration and to replete lost electrolytes. You should also see a doctor if you develop a high fever, bloody diarrhea or extreme pain.

For people who are on immunomodulating drugs or medications that suppress the immune system, or who have medical conditions that suppress the immune system, I recommend seeking immediate medical attention.

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy