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11 Most Dangerous Foods

Kathleen Corlett
September 14, 2011

Every year, one in six Americans gets sick from foodborne illnesses and 3,000 adults and children die. Learn which foods have caused the most illnesses and how to stay safe in this countdown of the most dangerous foods.   

11. Beans and Grains

Seeds and beans thrive in warm and humid environments—environments that are also attractive for bacteria like Salmonella or E. coli. Bean sprouts are particularly risky. To be safe, skip raw sprouts on sandwiches and in salads; eat them only when cooked thoroughly, as in a stir fry.

10. Mollusks

Oysters, clams, mussels or other bivalves can be contaminated with deadly bacteria or parasites. Before buying check that the shellfish were taken from safe waters and, to be extra cautious, cook before eating.

Related: Why Your Food Isn't Safe

9. Eggs

The more Salmonella bacteria present in an egg, the higher your chance of getting sick. That’s why it’s important to refrigerate eggs as soon as you get back from the supermarket. Cook till yolks are firm.

8. Fish

Follow the same defrosting rules you use for meat. The safe ways: in a resealable bag or container in the fridge; in a sealed bag and submerged in cold water (changing the water every 30 minutes); or microwave. Do not thaw on the counter; the warmer temperatures of your kitchen can cause bacteria to multiply.

7. Pork

The rules for safe cooking have changed: Cook pork roasts or chops until internal temperature, as measured on a meat thermometer, reaches at least 145 degrees F. Then—this is important—let the meat rest for three minutes before cutting or eating. Ground pork needs to reach 160 degrees F.  

Related: Fight for Safer Food

6. Tomatoes and Cucumbers

Wash veggies with cold running water and dry with a clean paper towel. Make sure the sink—and your hands—are clean.

5. Fruits and Nuts

To keep up on all-too-common fruit and nut recalls, or contaminated products check http://stopfoodborneillness.org/content/outbreaks] or the government’s foodsafety.gov/recalls.


4. Dairy

Avoid unpasteurized milk, which can transmit serious infectious diseases. Especially at risk: those with weakened immune systems, pregnant women, young children, and the elderly.

Related: Safety at the Grocery Store

3. Beef

Ground beef can be contaminated with deadly strains of E. coli bacteria. When making burgers or meat loaf, cook to 160 degrees Fahrenheit; checking color isn’t a reliable test since the meat can turn brown before it’s fully cooked. For whole cuts, 145 degrees is safe.

2. Leafy Greens

Wash and dry with a clean paper towel. Exception: If the produce is labeled “prewashed,” “triple-washed,” or “ready-to-eat,” don’t rinse it. You risk picking up germs from around your kitchen. At salad bars, check that greens are replaced regularly.

1. Poultry

Avoid cross-contamination by keeping chicken and turkey packages in sealed containers or bags, where they can’t leak on to fresh foods. Use separate cutting boards for poultry and produce (ditto for raw meat). And don’t place cooked chicken (or meat) on the same platter you used to carry it to the stove or grill uncooked.

Related: How to Tell When Your Food is Done Cooking

How do you keep the food in your home safe? Share your experiences in the comments.

More from Good Housekeeping:

Reprinted with Permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.

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