Food-borne bacteria: The 6 riskiest foods to eat

Everyone who's ever come down with food poisoning has had some variation of the following thoughts: Why me? What did I eat?! I never want to go through this again... And if you've been following the news lately, it seems like every day there's another food-borne illness outbreak. And another. And another.

While there's no concrete way to completely avoid eating contaminated food—the CDC estimates that about 1 in 6 Americans (48 million people) will get sick every year—some foods are known to be riskier than others. Here are six that are currently listed on the CDC food poisoning website because they are the most common culprits for certain bacterial contamination:

Fresh eggs in box
Fresh eggs in box

—Soft Mexican cheese like queso fresco
The risk: Listeria
"Listeria outbreaks are mainly caused by soft Mexican-style cheeses like queso fresco and other cheeses that were either made from unpasteurized milk or that got contaminated during cheese-making. Some outbreaks have also been caused by foods that people may not think of as risky for Listeria, like celery, sprouts, and cantaloupe," the CDC says.

The risk: Salmonella, Listeria, and E. coli
"Unlike other fresh produce, seeds and beans need warm and humid conditions to sprout and grow. These conditions are also ideal for the growth of bacteria, including Salmonella, Listeria, and E. coli. Since 1996, there have been at least 30 reported outbreaks of food-borne illness associated with different types of raw and lightly cooked sprouts. Most of these outbreaks were caused by Salmonella and E. coli."

The risk: Salmonella
"Eggs, like meat, poultry, milk, and other foods, are safe when handled properly. Shell eggs are safest when stored in the refrigerator, individually and thoroughly cooked, and promptly consumed. The larger the number of Salmonella present in the egg, the more likely it is to cause illness. Keeping eggs adequately refrigerated until they are used prevents any Salmonella present in the eggs from growing to higher numbers. Cooking reduces the number of bacteria present in an egg; however, an egg with a runny yolk still poses a greater risk than a completely cooked egg," says the CDC.

—Undercooked meat
The risk: Salmonella, Listeria, Campylobacter, parasites
"Washing chicken and other poultry does not remove bacteria. You can kill these bacteria only by cooking chicken to the proper temperature," says the CDC. "Raw meat may contain bacteria, such as E. coli, Salmonella, and Listeria, or parasites. Thorough cooking destroys these harmful organisms, but meat can become contaminated again if it is not handled and stored properly."

Yikes. Hopefully you're cooking your food thoroughly (and you might want to pass on the steak tartar altogether). In fact, there's never been a better time to eat less red meat: read this.

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