Some people may choose to chicken liver on the underdone side, but that could be a very risky choice, explains Dr. Griffin. It’s still chicken, and the livers can be loaded with the bacteria campylobacter, she warns.
How to avoid poisoning: Be wary of recipes and menu items that recommend preparing the delicacy “lightly sautéed.” The livers should reach an internal temperature of 165° F and have a crumbly texture.
4. Rotisserie chicken
A piping-hot rotisserie chicken from the grocery store is a quick and tasty meal—just be sure to eat it while it’s still hot. If you leave it on the counter for a couple of hours, any bacteria on the bird could begin to flourish. (This is true if you roast your own chicken, as well.) “You have to assume that the raw chicken and its juices are contaminated,” says Patricia Griffin, MD, chief of the CDC’s Enteric Diseases Epidemiology Branch, and act accordingly.
How to avoid food poisoning: Bacteria can double every 20 minutes at room temperature; keep your food out of the danger zone—between 40° F and 140° F—until you’re ready to eat it. If you left the chicken on your counter for more than two hours, you’re best off throwing it out.
“Cut up the rotisserie chicken in pieces so they cool quickly to a safe temperature,” says Marianne H. Gravely, senior technical information specialist at the Food Safety and Inspection Service at the USDA.
If you’re cooking your own roasted chicken, don’t wash it—you’ll only spread germs. Instead, focus on cooking it to the right temperature. According to the USDA Meat and Poultry Roasting Chart, the bird should be cooked until the internal temperature is 165° F, which amounts to about 20 to 30 minutes per pound (with an additional 15 to 30 minutes if it’s stuffed) at 350° F. If you’re not sure why your stomach is feeling off, here’s how to tell the difference between a stomach bug and food poisoning.
If it smells okay, it’s probably okay, right? Wrong. When raw fish isn’t stored properly before it’s cooked, it can develop scombroid poisoning—a type of food intoxication, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. For example, tuna is especially prone to this type of toxicity (other culprits include bluefish, mahi-mahi, and abalone). Infected fish can taste burnt or peppery. In addition to the regular gastro-misery, you may experience a rash on the face and upper body, flushing, and sweating.
How to avoid food poisoning: Order fish only in reputable restaurants. When you cook your own, bring the fish into the refrigerator as quickly as possible (so when grocery shopping, pick up the fish last, stick it into a cooler in your car, and go directly home). Raw fish should be cooked to 145° F. Leftovers should be reheated to 165° F and eaten within two days.
6. Leafy green salads
Consider this not an excuse to skip your vegetables, but an important reminder to wash (or cook) them well before eating and staying aware of recalls. Leafy greens are particularly tricky because they’re eaten as salads and not cooked—so proper washing is essential. After all, farms are not pristine: potential pathogens are everywhere, including in bird poop, fertilizer, ticks, tainted water, or as the result of poor hygiene.
How to avoid food poisoning: Some bacteria can stick to the lettuce and even get into it, says Dr. Griffin So washing won’t guarantee a bacteria-free leaf, but it can knock off dirt and reduce the risk of germs. Place the odds in your favor by buying greens that are in the best possible shape. “Look for leaves that are firm and crisp,” says New York City nutrition coach Maria Marlowe, author of The Real Food Grocery Guide. For packaged lettuce, avoid the slightest sign of sliminess—”bacteria can spread quickly,” she says. For fresh herbs, she says, “make sure the leaves are firmly attached to the stem and have no sign of brown or black spots.” Finally, triple-wash your lettuce before you eat it. “Don’t just rinse it, ” she says, “but fill a large bowl with cold water, tear the leaves into the bowl, submerge and swirl with your hands for a minute or two, then lift the leaves into a strainer and dump the water.” Repeat twice more, then wipe or spin dry. Here’s what to do if you accidentally eat mold.
The sultry environment needed for a seed to sprout and grow is also the condition of choice for bacteria. “The contamination happens typically in the seed, and when it starts to sprout the bacterial cells also get inside the plant, so washing the surface may not necessarily help,” says Diez-Gonzalez.
How to prevent food poisoning: As of yet, there’s no 100-percent foolproof way for rendering raw sprouts pathogen-free. Your safest bet is to cook them before eating them, or skipping them altogether. Don’t miss these 10 food poisoning myths you can safely ignore.
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