At least 9 million people in the U.S. suffer from a foodborne illness every year.
There tends to be a spike in illnesses during the warmer seasons, which is likely due to the fact that people are cooking outside more and are leaving food out for unhealthy periods of time.
There are many ways to prevent foodborne illnesses. Cooking and cleaning the foods properly can help to reduce your risk of contamination.
Here’s a list of what you can do to protect your family from getting sick from the most illness-prone foods:
- Eggs. The FDA reports more than 140,000 cases of infection each year with salmonella bacteria from eating eggs. Approximately 30 die from the illness. Often the shell is contaminated with animal waste.
- Safety Tip: Avoid eating raw eggs and cook eggs thoroughly before consuming. Wash your hands with soap and warm water after handling either the shells or liquid parts of an egg.
- Veggies. Leafy greens are the number one source of food related illness. They are the major source of salmonella, E. coli and other bacterial infections because they grow in fields and often directly in soil where they can be exposed to pollution, animal waste and other harmful contaminants.
- Safety Tip: Be careful when consuming raw veggies. Even after being washed, pathogens may still survive. Try cooking most of your vegetables before consuming and wash thoroughly before cooking or eating. Keep meats and vegetables separate from one another and use different cutting boards and utensils when handling raw meat and veggies.
- Fruit. More than half a million cantaloupes were recalled by the FDA in 2012 due to reports of salmonella poisoning. Fruits in general are often high on the FDA’s recall list. The problem may stem back from one farm which sends out contaminated fruit all of the country, so outbreaks become widespread very quickly.
- Safety Tip: Always wash fruit thoroughly before consumption. Even fruit with a hard outer rind, such as a cantaloupe or watermelon, should be washed before eating because pathogens can be dragged across the entire length of the fruit. Wash “prewashed” produce.
- Fish. Vibrio contamination is usually the reason why fish is frequently pulled off the shelves at supermarkets. Vibrio is found in higher concentrations when water gets warmer, so outbreaks are more common in the summer months. Fish may also be recalled due to higher mercury concentrations. If consumed regularly, mercury can cause harm to the central nervous system.
- Safety Tip: Pregnant woman, children and others with weaker immune systems should limit their consumption of fish with high levels of mercury, such as tuna and what’s found in sushi. All fish should be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 145 degrees.
- Meat. In April 2013, nearly 500,000 pounds of adulterated meat was recalled. The meat was thought to be contaminated with the listeria bacteria, a pathogen that kills one in five people it infects. E. coli and salmonella are also common in contaminated meat and poultry.
- Safety Tip: Refrigerate meat to 40 degrees or below until right before cooking it. Bring a cooler to outdoor barbeques and keep it chilled. Whole cuts of meat should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees. Burgers cooked to 160 degrees and poultry to 165 degrees.
- Nuts & Seeds. Michigan recalled its packaged sunflower seeds and all products containing the seeds just this week alone due to a suspected listeria contamination in the nine states they were distributed to. More commonly, salmonella is usually the culprit in nuts and seeds.
- Safety Tip: Whenever possible, eat roasted versus raw nuts.
- Pet Food. Dog and cat food recalls for salmonella outbreaks are fairly common. Owners may be at risk as well if they have handled the contaminated pet food.
- Safety Tip: Keep up with pet food recalls regularly. These are listed on the FDA website.
If you or a loved one have been sickened due to a contaminated product, contact us immediately and fill out our free evaluation form.
Read more on these foods and safety tips on how to prevent illness.
Mr. Finkelstein is the Managing Partner of Finkelstein & Partners, LLP. He has become a noted consumer activist through his representation of injured individuals against corporate wrongdoers and irresponsible parties.
An accomplished litigator, Mr. Finkelstein has represented Plaintiffs in wrongful death and catastrophic personal injury cases. He has successfully handled dozens of multi-million dollar cases.