Contaminated cucumbers were the source of multiple salmonella outbreaks in recent years. Unlike many vegetables, they’re rarely cooked so you’re prone to any pathogens that might be on the peel. This is true even if you don’t end up consuming the peel itself. Your knife blade picks up germs from the surface as you begin to slice and spreads them to the edible portions with every cut. “Ready-to-eat products are higher risk than those that go through an [pathogen] inactivation step,” says Sterling S. Thompson, PhD, president of B&G Safe Food Consulting, in Middletown, Pennsylvania. Plant foods as a group accounted for 14 outbreaks and 1,339 illnesses in 2017, the most recent year with available CDC stats.
How to avoid food poisoning: Be sure to scrub cucumbers with water and a produce brush whether you’re eating the peel or not. Wipe them dry and trim the bruises before you slice and serve. You also probably don’t want to eat these foods that food safety experts always avoid.
13. Red kidney beans
The issue with red kidney beans isn’t bacteria but a special kind of lectin. Lectin is a protein, and red kidney beans happen to have a type called “red bean lectin” (or phytohaemagglutinin). If it isn’t destroyed by heating, it can cause vomiting and diarrhea.
How to avoid food poisoning: Don’t just soak your red kidney beans. Cook them in boiling water for a good half hour, advises the FDA’s Bad Bug Book. Slow cookers won’t work because the temperature never gets high enough. Or you can play it safe by using canned kidney beans.
14. Cream-filled pastries and pies
The problem with these treats is that they’re prepared by hand and then eaten directly—without any additional baking. So you’re trusting that whoever has prepared your dessert has indeed washed his or her hands well. In tests, the nasty bacteria staphylococcus turns up on the skin of about a quarter of the population. This means they can end up in your pastries. And you still face the bugs that can grow in improperly stored dairy if there’s no baking, notes Thompson.
How to avoid food poisoning: If a cream puff craving hits, make sure you’re buying from a reputable, clean place that’s regularly inspected and certified, says Diez-Gonzalez. While you’re thinking about the foods you should probably stop eating, make sure you also know about these foods you should never eat raw.