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NY Post
New York Post
1 Apr 2023

NextImg:10 grocery items most likely to cause food poisoning: ‘Big surprise’

Onions, peaches and cold cuts, oh my — these are just some of the risky foods lurking in your kitchen.

The latest study by Consumer Reports reveals the 10 kitchen staples most often linked to food recalls from 2017 to 2022, and some might shock you.

The report notes that an estimated 48 million people become ill from salmonella, listeria, E. coli or other food-borne bacteria or viruses each year, leading to nearly 130,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths.

“We aren’t saying people need to avoid these foods entirely,” said CR director of food policy Brian Ronholm, who led the analysis.

Instead, consumers should know the “importance of following best food safety practices with all of your foods, including knowing how to track, and respond, to food recalls when they happen.”

Leafy greens, such as romaine lettuce and bagged salad mixes, have been linked to 11 deaths, 614 illnesses and 50 recalls/outbreaks.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

Coming out ahead are leafy greens, such as those found in bagged salads, with 11 deaths, 614 illnesses and 50 recalls/outbreaks.

E. coli and listeria are to blame, and CR says the likely culprit is water contaminated with bacteria from animal droppings that’s then used to irrigate crops.

Much of the nation’s lettuce comes from California and Arizona, so one affected facility can lead to widespread problems.

“Concentration in the salad processing industry means a greater chance of contamination and larger outbreaks when they happen,” said Dr. Michael Hansen, a CR senior scientist.

It doesn’t help that leafy greens are eaten raw, as heating kills bacteria.

Experts recommend purchasing whole heads of lettuce, instead of bags or boxes of greens, and removing the outer leaves, where bacteria is often found.

Greenhouse-grown lettuce is less likely to come in contact with manure too. Or, ditch the salad altogether and prepare cooked vegetables instead.

Cold cuts on sandwhich

Consumer Reports experts called deli cold cuts “nutritional nightmares.”
Getty Images

The report also lists deli meats and cheeses — such as cold cuts and deli-sliced or soft cheeses — as potential sources of listeria, which can cause a serious (and sometimes deadly) infection.

CR counts seven deaths, more than 400 illnesses and 122 outbreaks/recalls over its five-year timespan.

Experts advise ditching the “nutritional nightmare,” sodium-packed cold cuts entirely.

Packaged ground beef isn’t safe either — 22 outbreaks linked to E. coli and salmonella contamination have been reported.

Specifically, deadly strains of the bacteria can be transferred from the cow’s gut to the meat.

Salmonella is a greater concern, and preparation is key.

Thaw frozen meat in the refrigerator, and cook ground beef and pork to an internal temperature of 160° F and whole cuts, like steak, to 145° F to kill any bacteria. Promptly refrigerate leftovers.

Ground beef in packaging being picked up by customer

Ground beef could harbor E. coli and salmonella, so it should be cooked properly.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

Onions were a “big surprise” on the CR list. But in 2020 and 2021, batches of red, white and yellow onions were recalled due to salmonella.

Cooking onions kills any bacteria, and choosing unbruised vegetables and storing them out of sunlight are ways to avoid food-borne illness.

Turkey and chicken round out the top six in CR’s report, thanks to salmonella, which the publication blames on sloppy de-feathering and filthy conditions where the birds are raised.

CR recommends cooking chicken and turkey in all forms to 165° F and not rinsing the birds to reduce the risk of spreading salmonella around the kitchen.

Pre-cut fruit such as papayas, peaches and melons — which are eaten raw — also carry salmonella risks.

“When you cut into produce, you increase the risk of transferring bacteria that may be on its surface into its flesh,” said Dr. James E. Rogers, CR director of food safety research and testing.

“In commercial facilities, with fruits and vegetables processed in one place, it can create opportunities for cross contamination.” 

Between papayas, cantaloupes and peaches, there were over 700 reported illnesses and 22 recalls/outbreaks.

pre-cut fruit

Pre-cut fruits such as papayas, melons and peaches could be tainted with bacteria.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

Lastly, and perhaps most shockingly, is raw flour.

While it’s tempting, don’t eat raw batter or dough — though delicious, it can be tainted with bacteria.

Cooking is the only way to kill it and ensure safe eating, and experts recommend thoroughly washing surfaces, dishes and your hands when they come in contact with raw flour.

CR’s findings coincide with an urgent notice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which warned people this week not to consume raw or uncooked flour due to a salmonella outbreak in 11 states that has hospitalized three people.

“Flour doesn’t look like a raw food, but most flour is raw,” the agency cautioned.

To stay safe from food-borne illnesses, monitor recalls and practice proper cooking techniques, which include diligently washing countertops and anything that comes in contact with raw meat; and cooking foods thoroughly.