Foods Linked to Foodborne Illness
Some foods are more associated with foodborne illnesses than others. They can carry harmful germs that can make you very sick if the food is contaminated.
- Raw foods of animal origin are the most likely to be contaminated, specifically raw or undercooked meat and poultry, raw or lightly cooked eggs, unpasteurized (raw) milk, and raw shellfish.
- Fruits and vegetables also may get contaminated.
Learn about steps you can take to avoid food poisoning:
Chicken, Beef, Pork, and Turkey
Raw and undercooked meat and poultry can make you sick. Most raw poultry contains Campylobacter. It also may contain Salmonella, Clostridium perfringens, and other bacteria. Raw meat may contain Salmonella, E. coli, Yersinia, and other bacteria.
- You should not wash raw poultry or meat before cooking it, even though some older recipes may call for this step. Washing raw poultry or meat can spread bacteria to other foods, utensils, and surfaces, and does not prevent illness.
- Thoroughly cooking poultry and meat destroys germs. You can kill bacteria by cooking poultry and meat to a safe internal temperature.
- Use a cooking thermometer to check the temperature. You can’t tell if meat is properly cooked by looking at its color or juices.
- Leftovers should be refrigerated at 40°F or colder within 2 hours after preparation. Large cuts of meat, such as roasts or a whole turkey, should be divided into small quantities for refrigeration so they’ll cool quickly enough to prevent bacteria from growing.
Foodborne Illness and Raw Poultry and Meat:
- Shiga Toxin-Producing E. coli & Food Safety
- Salmonella and Food
- Tips to Prevent Illness from Clostridium Perfringens
Tips for Preparing Raw Poultry and Meat:
- Food Safety Tips for Your Holiday Turkey
- Get Ready to Grill Safely
- Meat and Poultry Roasting Chart
- The Raw Story: Frozen Chicken Entrees [PDF – 1 page]
Fruits and Vegetables
Eating fresh produce provides important health benefits, but sometimes raw fruits and vegetables may cause food poisoning from harmful germs such as Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria. Fresh fruits and vegetables can be contaminated anywhere along the journey from farm to table, including by cross-contamination in the kitchen.
Food Safety Tips for Fruits and Vegetables
Raw Milk, Cheese, and Other Dairy Products
You can get very sick from raw milk and from dairy products made with raw milk, including soft cheeses such as queso fresco, blue-veined, feta, brie and camembert, as well as ice cream and yogurt. They can carry harmful germs, including Campylobacter,
Cryptosporidium, E. coli, Listeria, and Salmonella.
- Raw milk products are made safe through pasteurization, which requires just enough heat to kill disease-causing germs.
- Most of the nutritional benefits of drinking raw milk are also available from pasteurized milk, without the risk.
- Although Listeria infection is very uncommon, a Listeria infection often has severe effects on older adults, fetuses and newborns.
Learn About the Dangers of Raw Milk and Cheese
Raw Eggs and Salmonella
Eggs can contain a germ called Salmonella that can make you sick, even if the egg looks clean and uncracked. Use pasteurized eggs and egg products when preparing recipes that call for raw or undercooked eggs. In addition:
- Avoid foods that contain raw or undercooked eggs, such as homemade Caesar salad dressing and eggnog.
- Cook eggs until the yolks and whites are firm.
- Cook foods containing eggs thoroughly.
- Keep eggs refrigerated at 40°F or colder.
- Do not taste or eat raw batter or dough.
Tips for Preparing and Eating Eggs
Seafood and Raw Shellfish
Cook seafood to 145°F, and heat leftover seafood to 165°F. Avoid raw or undercooked fish, shellfish, or food containing raw or undercooked seafood, such as sashimi, some sushi, and ceviche.
Oysters and Food Poisoning
- Oysters and other filter-feeding shellfish can contain viruses and bacteria that can cause illness or death.
- Oysters harvested from contaminated waters can contain norovirus.
- To avoid food poisoning, cook oysters well.
Learn more about Seafood and Oysters
The warm, humid conditions needed to grow sprouts are also ideal for germs to grow. Eating raw or lightly cooked sprouts, such as alfalfa, bean, or any other sprout may lead to food poisoning from Salmonella, E. coli, or Listeria. Thoroughly cooking sprouts kills the harmful germs and reduces the chance of food poisoning.
Flour is typically a raw agricultural product that hasn’t been treated to kill germs. Harmful germs can contaminate grain while it’s still in the field or at other steps as flour is produced. Bacteria are killed when food made with flour is cooked. That’s why you should never taste raw dough or batter.
- Page last reviewed: April 19, 2018
- Page last updated: April 19, 2018
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