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Foodborne Illness

Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside – Mark Twain

Foodborne Illness

image by: USDA
     

If there's one thing we all can agree on, it's that getting food poisoning can be one of the most miserable experiences imaginable. Thankfully, we know which foods are most likely to make you sick, so be extra-careful when you eat these.

Food poisoning can come in many different forms, and there have been some terrible outbreaks over the years. Most of these outbreaks have come from salmonella, which usually occurs when produce isn't properly cleaned, or from E. coli, as a result of eating undercooked animal products. Another major cause of food poisoning is listeria, which can cause miscarriages, and hepatitis A and a whole host of other illnesses can be contracted through food.

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.

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.

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.

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.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every year, about 48 million people contract foodborne illness, and about 3,000 of them die. That means that your odds of actually dying from food poisoning are pretty slim (chances of death are higher for the very young and very old), but you're still going to have a bad time.

Unfortunately, food can become contaminated at any point during production and preparation. Chicken can be contaminated with E. coli while it's still in the slaughterhouse, or it can begin to spoil while it's being kept in a restaurant's cooler. Same for vegetables; they can carry disease all the way from the farm to your table, or an inattentive cook might use the same knife he just used to de-bone a chicken on your lettuce. Thankfully, the Center for Science in the Public Interest has been keeping close tabs on which foods most commonly carry food poisoning.

Source: Excerpt from 5 Foods Most Likely to Cause Food Poisoning, The Daily Meal, Huff Post, November 23, 2014.

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Last Updated : Monday, April 23, 2018