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10 Grocery Items Most Likely To Cause Food Poisoning: ‘Big Surprise’ ft

Food and drink

April 1, 2023 | 13:41

Onions, peaches, and cold cuts—wow, these are just a few of the dangerous foods lurking in your kitchen.

The last Consumer Reports study reveals the 10 kitchen staples most frequently linked to food recalls from 2017 to 2022, and some might surprise you.

The report notes that approximately 48 million people become ill with salmonella, listeria, E. coli, or other foodborne bacteria or viruses each year, resulting in nearly 130,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths.

“We’re not saying people should avoid these foods completely,” said CR’s food policy director Brian Ronholm, who led the analysis.

Instead, consumers should be aware of the “importance of following food safety best practices with all of their food, including knowing how to track and respond to food recalls when they occur.”

Leading the way are leafy greens, such as those found in bagged salads, with 11 deaths, 614 illnesses and 50 recalls/outbreaks.

E. coli and listeria are to blame, and CR says the likely culprit is bacteria-contaminated water from animal droppings that is then used to irrigate crops.

Much of the country’s lettuce comes from California and Arizona, so one affected facility can lead to widespread problems.

Raw flour, milled in a plant like this, poses salmonella risks.
Getty Images/iStockphoto
Green leafy vegetables sprayed with water
Leafy green vegetables, such as romaine lettuce and bagged salad mixes, have been linked to 11 deaths, 614 illnesses and 50 recalls/outbreaks.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

“Concentration in the salad processing industry means a higher chance of contamination and larger outbreaks when they do occur,” said Dr. Michael Hansen, senior scientist at CR.

It doesn’t help if leafy greens are eaten raw, as heating kills bacteria.

Experts recommend buying whole lettuce, rather than bags or boxes of greens, and removing the outer leaves, where bacteria are often found.

Greenhouse-grown lettuce is also less likely to come into contact with manure. Or, ditch the salad entirely and have cooked vegetables instead.

sausages in sandwich
Consumer Reports experts called deli meats “nutritional nightmares.”
fake images

The report also lists deli meats and cheeses, such as deli meats and soft or sliced ​​cheeses, as possible sources of listeria, which can cause serious (and sometimes fatal) infection.

CR counts seven deaths, more than 400 illnesses and 122 outbreaks/recalls during its five-year term.

Experts advise ditching the “nutritional nightmare” — cold cuts packed with sodium — entirely.

Packaged ground beef is also not safe: 22 outbreaks linked to E. coli and salmonella contamination have been reported.

Specifically, deadly strains of the bacteria can be transferred from the cow’s intestine to meat.

Salmonella is a bigger concern, and preparation is key.

Thaw frozen meat in the refrigerator and cook ground beef and pork to an internal temperature of 160°F and whole cuts, such as steak, to 145°F to kill any bacteria. Refrigerate leftovers immediately.

Ground beef in containers collected by the customer
Ground beef could harbor E. coli and salmonella, so it must be cooked properly.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

Onions were a “big surprise” on the CR list. But in 2020 and 2021, batches of red, white and yellow onions were recalled due to salmonella.

Cooking onions kills any bacteria, and choosing unbruised vegetables and storing them out of sunlight are ways to avoid foodborne illness.

Turkey and chicken round out the top six in CR’s report, thanks to salmonella, which the publication attributes to careless plucking and dirty conditions where the birds are raised.

CR recommends cooking chicken and turkey in all forms to 165°F and not rinsing poultry to reduce the risk of spreading salmonella in the kitchen.

Pre-cut fruits like papayas, peaches, and melons, which are eaten raw, also carry salmonella risks.

“When you cut into a product, you increase the risk of transferring bacteria that may be on its surface to its flesh,” said Dr. James E. Rogers, CR’s director of food safety research and testing.

“In commercial facilities, with fruits and vegetables being processed in one place, it can create opportunities for cross-contamination.”

Among papayas, melons, and peaches, there were more than 700 reported illnesses and 22 recalls/outbreaks.

pre-cut fruit
Pre-cut fruits such as papayas, melons, and peaches may be contaminated with bacteria.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

Last, and perhaps most surprising, is raw flour.

While it’s tempting, don’t eat batter or dough raw; although it is delicious, it can be contaminated with bacteria.

Cooking is the only way to kill it and ensure safe eating, and experts recommend washing surfaces, dishes, and hands thoroughly when they come into contact with raw flour.

CR’s findings coincide with an urgent advisory from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which warned people this week not to eat raw or uncooked flour because of an 11-state salmonella outbreak that has hospitalized three people.

“The flour does not look like a raw food, but most flour is raw,” the agency warned.

To stay safe from foodborne illness, monitor recalls and practice proper cooking techniques, including diligently washing countertops and anything that comes in contact with raw meat; and cook food well.

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