You need it to survive, but food can sometimes make you sick.
About 48 million Americans get sick from E. coli, salmonella, and listeria in foods each year. Nearly 3,000 die from foodborne illnesses annually, and almost 130,000 are hospitalized.
Researchers at Consumer Reports recently ranked foods based on how many outbreaks, deaths, and illnesses they caused. They found some foods were riskier to eat than others.
The worst offender was leafy greens. Foods like lettuce, kale, and arugula were responsible for 50 outbreaks and 11 deaths between 2017 and 2022. These veggies tend to get contaminated by dirty irrigation water.
“It’s best if you are able to wash your fruits and vegetables,” said Shante Jeune, a registered dietician at the University of Central Florida.
Contaminated deli meats and cheeses were also found to cause outbreaks of listeria. Ninety percent of people infected with listeria end up in the hospital.
Other meats like ground beef, chicken and turkey can also make you sick.
“Meats, especially chicken, it’s important to fully cook through. In beef, they have specific requirements, 150 degrees or higher to maintain healthy uncontaminated foods,” said Jeune.
Some other foods that made the list were fruits like papaya, peaches and cantaloupes.
Surprisingly, onions were the fourth most likely food to make someone ill. Experts say to avoid purchasing bruised onions, as they allow bacteria to enter more easily.
Flour used in cookie and brownie mixes and premade cake batter also made the list. Experts say while wheat is growing in the field, bacteria can get onto the grain surface through contaminated water or wild animal droppings. When flour is cooked before consumption, the bacteria are killed. Avoid eating raw dough or batter to limit your risk.