Surprising Foods That Can Make You Sick

Spinach and kale are nearly perfect foods, since they are packed with vitamins and minerals your body needs. But beware!

Leafy green veggies are the No. 1 cause of food poisoning, according to the Atlanta-based U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Meat lovers should also beware, since tainted meat and poultry cause more deaths from foodborne illnesses than any other food.

By analyzing data from all outbreaks of foodborne illnesses since 1998, the CDC determined that 46 percent of food poisoning cases can be traced to produce, including vegetables, fruits and nuts.

These healthy foods were then ranked for their role in food poisoning incidents:

  • Leafy vegetables, such as kale and spinach: 22 percent
  • Dairy (primarily unpasteurized): 14 percent
  • Fruits and nuts: 12 percent

While meat and poultry are responsible for less cases of foodborne illnesses than produce, they resulted in more deaths from such illnesses. Specifically, meat and poultry combined caused 43 percent of all deaths from food poisoning.

Each year about 48 million people in the United States--or one in six--get food poisoning. In this latest research, the CDC identified for the first time which foods or categories of foods were most likely to blame.

What is the primary cause of food poisoning? It's the Norovirus. Study senior author Dr. Patricia Griffin, chief of the CDC's enteric diseases epidemiology branch, says people carry the Norovirus on their hands and pass it on to food if they don't wash their hands after using the toilet or vomiting and then handling food. This applies not only to restaurant workers, but also home cooks.

The takeaway:

  • Before preparing or eating food, wash your hands thoroughly.

  • After using the toilet, wash your hands in warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds.

  • Use separate cutting boards and knives for meat and produce. After use, wash at a high temperature or in the dishwasher.

  • Thoroughly wash all produce before consuming it.

  • Refrigerate meat before preparation and thoroughly cook it before eating it.

The study findings were published in the journal Emerging infectious Diseases.

--From the Editors at Netscape

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