Food experts reveal the foods that are the most likely to give you food poisoning plus tips on how to avoid getting sick.
Foods that could make you sick
Nearly everyone has had food poisoning at least once. Every year, about one in six Americans will get sick from a contaminated meal, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Food poisoning can even be life-threatening, though the common symptoms tend to be cramping, diarrhea, and vomiting. Not fun.
You know that undercooking poultry or ground beef can raise your risk, but there are other foods that can expose you to the bacteria—E. coli, listeria, and salmonella and more—that can have you retching. We spoke with food experts who revealed the unexpected foods that can give you food poisoning, and how to avoid them. You may also want to check out the 7 signs of food poisoning everyone should know.
1. Sunny-side-up eggs
What’s not to love about an oozy egg, especially over biscuits and gravy or a corned beef hash? Potential salmonella infection, that’s what. Salmonella is among the most common causes of food poisoning. It can turn up in your egg courtesy of an infected laying hen.
How to avoid food poisoning: The risk is relatively rare, but if you’re feeding little kids, the elderly, or anyone with a compromised immune system, cook the egg thoroughly to kill off any dangerous bacteria. Opt for hard-boiled, thoroughly scrambled, or over-well eggs. Another option, says Francisco Diez-Gonzalez, PhD, professor and director of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia in Griffin, is pasteurized eggs. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has a service that allows you to submit questions about eggs, meat, and poultry and get a response any time of the day or night.
Ground beef, pork, and poultry can be problematic because any pathogens on the surface before its ground ends up getting into all those little nooks and crannies. What’s more, they may escape death, even as the surface areas of the patty look hot and toasty. As with any meat, points out Gravely, “color is not a reliable indicator of doneness.” For example, sometimes beef can look a bit pink, she says, even if it’s cooked to a safe temperature. “And sometimes it can look brown when it’s not a safe temperature.”
How to avoid food poisoning: A food thermometer is a must. Ground beef and pork must be cooked to at least 160° F. Ground turkey—which is particularly tricky because it looks less pink even in its raw state—and chicken should be cooked for 165° F, according to the USDA’s Safe Minimum Cooking Temperature Guidelines. Don’t miss these other common summer BBQ foods that can cause food poisoning, too.
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