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Top Food Poisoning Culprits: How to Avoid Them

Thursday, November 10, 2016 7:45 AM

Food poisoning can happen year-round from picnics to all-night holiday parties, even in our own kitchen. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost one in six Americans contracts a foodborne illness. The most common cause of foodborne illness is from harmful bacteria, with symptoms ranging from an upset stomach to severe vomiting and diarrhea. 


Mike Vernon, MD, Director of Infection Control at NorthShore, shares the top culprits and how to avoid illness:

  • Leafy greens are responsible for nearly half of all foodborne illnesses according to the CDC. Keep spinach, romaine lettuce and other greens refrigerated and wash them – even when they already say pre-washed.
  • Dairy products that are raw and unpasteurized are more likely to contain bacteria such as E. coli, Listeria and Salmonella.
  • Poultry can be a big offender when it is not cooked thoroughly. To best avoid illness, keep a clean workspace and use separate cutting boards for poultry and vegetables to prevent cross-contamination and cook poultry to 165⁰ F.
  • Fish that is not cooked properly can cause sickness. Purchase fish that is clear-eyed, doesn’t smell too fishy and cook to an internal temperature of 145⁰ F.
  • Raw meat may potentially contain Salmonella, Listeria, E.coli or parasites. Just like chicken, cross-contamination should be avoided and the meat should be thoroughly cooked.

Other top offenders are potatoes that are baked in aluminum foil but left out, unwashed fruits, and vegetables and oysters.

If you believe you are experiencing a foodborne illness, visit your physician, an immediate care clinic or the emergency room.