food poisoningWhen you think of food poisoning, what foods are typically to blame? A burger made from old meat or undercooked chicken probably comes to mind. But you might be surprised to learn that chicken, pork, and beef did not even make the top five list of the most frequent causes of food poisoning. So which foods are most likely to get people sick and land them in the emergency room? Let’s take a look at the common culprits.

Foods that Cause Food Poisoning

#1. Sprouts: Sprouts are difficult to clean thoroughly because they are small and stick together. Because they are typically served raw, it’s easy for them to be served contaminated with bacteria.

#2. Cantaloupe: People think that cantaloupe does not need to be washed because it has a thick exterior shell protecting its edible parts. But any bacteria sitting on the rind can be easily transferred to the parts you eat when you’re cutting and handling the fruit.

#3. Raw Milk: Because raw unpasteurized milk hasn’t been treated to kill bacteria, it is one of the riskiest foods for Salmonella, Listeria, and E. coli contamination.

#4. Tuna: If stored above 60 degrees, tuna is especially susceptible to scombrotoxin, a toxin which can cause serious cramps, headaches, and rashes. Scombrotoxin and high histamine levels are generally more likely to occur in fast swimming and migratory fin fish species with red coloured meat, like tuna. If not stored at proper temperatures after being caught, histamine may be present in fresh, frozen, canned, and cured fish products at high enough concentrations to cause illness.

#5. Berries: Frozen berries are a common culprit of food poisoning because people forget that they need to be washed, even if they’re frozen.

How to Prevent Food Contamination and Food Poisoning

  • Wash the produce under a stream of cool water. Rub the produce with your hands, or scrub with a clean vegetable brush to remove potential bacteria in all the grooves and crevices.
  • Avoid consuming risky foods such as raw milk.
  • Only buy products from reputable food sources.
  • Rinse off dishes before using them, especially if you have a pest problem.
  • Rinse off aluminum cans before opening.
  • Wash your utensils, cooking supplies, and any food preparation tools with hot, soapy water before using.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with warm, soapy water before and after handling or preparing food.
  • Keep raw foods separate from ready-to-eat foods when shopping, cooking, and storing.
  • Cook foods to a safe temperature:
    • Cook ground beef to 160 F (71.1 C).
    • Cook steaks, roasts, and chops, such as lamb, pork, and veal, to at least 145 F (62.8 C).
    • Cook chicken and turkey to 165 F (73.9 C).
    • Make sure fish and shellfish are cooked thoroughly. 
  • Refrigerate or freeze perishable foods within two hours of purchasing or preparing them.
  • Defrost food safely in the refrigerator, not at room temperature.
  • When in doubt, throw it out. If you aren’t sure if a food has been prepared, served, or stored safely, discard it.

If you think you’ve caught a severe case of food poisoning, go to the emergency room immediately and ask to be tested for food pathogens.