One kind of food is responsible for 50 percent of all foodborne illnesses -- and it's not raw meat

Just when you thought dairy and raw meat were more likely to get you sick, it turns out that produce may actually be the biggest culprit.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, produce is the culprit for about 50 percent of all foodborne illnesses. However, meat and poultry are only involved in about 22 percent of the cases, in comparison.

Recent research from the FDA has proven the risk unwashed produce can do for your health.

In one experiment, the Food and Drug Administration tested the bacteria existing in avocados and guacamole, later determining that E. coli and Salmonella were present in most of the samples. Furthermore, three out of the four subjects that tested positive for listeria came from domestic suppliers.

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Every year 48 million Americans, or roughly one in six people, get sick from foodborne illnesses, and about 3,000 cases each year are deadly. Find out which common foods carry the highest risk of food poisoning.

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Chicken

Between 1998 and 2010 in the United States, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) reports that chicken accounted for 452 outbreaks that sickened 6,896 consumers, more than to any other meat or poultry product. Most outbreaks are caused by bacteria Clostridium perfringens, found in poorly prepared food or food left to stand too long, and bacteria Salmonella, which often contaminates poultry during slaughter and processing.

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Leafy Greens

In an analysis of a decade of foodborne outbreak data in the U.S., a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study found that leafy vegetables account for the most illnesses, surprisingly outnumbering animal food categories like beef and poultry. The pathogen Norovirus, which can contaminate food when it is handled by a sick person, causes 46% of those illnesses.

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Ground Beef

Ground beef carries a very high risk of foodborne illness because contamination with antibiotic-susceptible and resistant strains of E. coli and Salmonella can occur, leading to hospitalization, severe symptoms with long-term health effects or death.

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Eggs

Most illnesses from egg consumption are due to Salmonella, sickening more than 11,000 people from 1990 to 2006. Federal regulations in the 1970s have reduced transmission of Salmonella from external fecal contamination of the shells, but today's most common type, Salmonella enteritidis, infects the ovaries of healthy hens and is transmitted to the egg even before the shell is formed. Eating your eggs raw or runny can increase your risk of illness.

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Tuna

Scombroid is the leading cause of illness for tuna dishes and occurs when improperly stored fresh fish start to decay and release natural toxins. The SCPI's Outbreak Alert! database shows that over 2,300 people have reported cases of scombroid poisoning, which can cause symptoms like abdominal cramps, nausea and diarrhea.

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Oysters

Most cases of illness with oysters occurred in restaurants and are attributed to Norovirus and bacteria Vibrio. While other foods can become contaminated with Norovirus from improper handling, oysters can pick up the bacteria from the waters they are harvested from, making them risky to serve raw or undercooked.

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Pork

The CSPI reports that pork (other than ham, sausage and barbecue) sickened more than 2,000 people from 1998 to 2010, and most pork illnesses were linked to Salmonella. Interestingly, more outbreaks occured at consumers' homes than in restaurants (40% compared to 24% of outbreaks).

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Turkey

From 1998 to 2010, there have been 130 turkey-related foodborne outbreaks that have caused 4,349 documented illnesses (second only to chicken among meat or poultry products) most commonly attributed to Clostridium perfringens. The CSPI explains that the spike of outbreaks in the months of November and December are due to improper handling of turkey holiday meals that are left out at room temperature for too long.

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Potatoes

Outbreaks with potato occur in potato salads and other potato dishes, and more than 30% of potato-related outbreaks are linked to Salmonella. Since these dishes contain many ingredients, the causes of contamination can occur from any of the raw ingredients or from improper handling of a raw meat or poultry ingredient.

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Other Beef Products (Not Steak, Ground or Roast)

Other beef products, such as beef jerky, beef stroganoff and chipped beef, are responsible for 99 outbreaks and at least 2,414 illnesses from 1998 to 2010 according to the CSPI. Improper handling after cooking may explain most cases of illness.

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Barbecue Beef or Pork

The barbecue cooking method is unique in that it cooks with low, indirect heat and requires after-cooking handling. The CSPI's study of meat-related foodborne illness deems it "medium risk" for causing nearly 2,500 people to get sick from 1998 to 2010, often from pathogens such as Staphylococcus aureus and Clostridium perfringens that may be signs of improper handling. In addition, nearly 40% of these outbreaks occurred in a restaurant.

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Roast Beef

Traditional roast beef, brisket or pot roast involve oven-roasting thick cuts of meat in a shallow pan, boiling on a stovetop or cooking on a closed grill. According to CSPI, 2,470 people got sick from eating roast beef from 1998 to 2010, and more than half were sickened by Clostridiium perfringens, a sign that the meat stood at room temperature for too long before being served.

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Cheese

Cheese can become contaminated with pathogens during production, and most cases of illness were due to Salmonella. Nowadays, cheese is made with pasteurized milk which lowers the risk of illness; however, unlicensed manufacturers may still use unpasteurized milk, so consumers should be wary, especially for Latin American-style cheeses like queso fresco and queso oaxaca.

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Steak

The popular cooking method for steaks is searing, when the meat's surface is cooked at high heat over a short period of time. Only the pathogens on the surface are killed, which might explain the 82 foodborne outbreaks that have caused nearly 2,000 illnesses form 1998 to 2010. Over half of these illnesses were linked to E. coli infections that carry serious health risks and even death.

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Ice Cream

The largest ice cream-related outbreak occurred in 1994, when an ice cream manufacturer used the same truck to haul unpasteurized liquid eggs and pasteurized ice cream premix. The Salmonella-contamined premix was used in ice cream products that sickened thousands of people across 41 states. Another major source of food poisoning is homemade ice cream due to the use of undercooked eggs.

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How can you practice safe food handling this summer? Read on to discover three expert tips to stay safe at your next cookout or picnic.

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Wash Hands and Surfaces

Even when you're dining outdoors, make sure to wash hands and surfaces food may come in contact with. The public health organization STOP Foodborne Illness recommends washing hands with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds and cleaning surfaces with hot soapy water or diluted bleach.

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Cook Meat to the Recommended Temperature

Use a meat thermometer to make sure you reach temperature guidelines when cooking meat. Hamburger patties should be cooked to 160 ºF, and large cuts of beef can be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 ºF for medium rare or 160 ºF for medium.

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Pack Your Cooler to the Max

A full cooler will stay cold longer than a partially filled cooler, and it's important to keep food chilled to slow down bacteria growth.

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"The FDA also tested processed avocados and guacamole, because they're low-acidic and pack a high moisture content, which make them ripe environments for bacteria to flourish," explained Moneyish. Frequently, packaged avocado, whether frozen or fresh cut, does not undergo a "kill step" -- washing or cooking to kill bacteria -- before being consumed.

As a result, the CDC reported that there were 12 outbreaks of foodborne illnesses due to avocados from 2005 to 2015. Three of those outbreaks involved E. Coli, and nine Salmonella.

According to the FDA, herbs such as basil, parsley and cilantro were also responsible for many of the foodborne bacteria outbreaks. From 1996 to 2015, the FDA reported nearly 2700 illnesses due to nine foodborne outbreaks from these herbs.

Explained the study, "These herbs are also often eaten as part of multi-ingredient foods, and thus people may not report having eaten them when they become ill." However, like avocados, these herbs are often eaten or used in food without having undergone a "kill step."

Yet, food experts believe that this FDA testing has barely scratched the surface. "These are still relatively small samples they have tested, and they are going to test thousands," explained Dr. Philip Tierno of NYU School of Medicine.

And with about half of foodborne illnesses happening at home, Tierno says that taking necessary precautions against these illnesses are important. Washing your hands, cleaning the produce and pat drying it with a paper towel can help prevent sickness.

h/t Moneyish

RELATED: Never eat this raw

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Never eat these foods raw

Potatoes 

Yes, this tuber-iffic mealtime staple should never be eaten raw! "Eating potatoes raw can cause bloating and undesirable gastrointestinal effects, because potatoes contain starches that are resistant to being digested," says Dr. Lisa Davis, the chief nutrition officer at Terra's Kitchen. (Cooking the potatoes successfully breaks down these starches.) Even scarier, if raw potatoes spend a long time in a warm or damp area, they can turn green and develop a toxin called solanine. If a potato appears to have green spots on it, you should avoid eating it altogether, because the solanine could cause food poisoning. Here are some other foods that are bad for your digestive health.

Yucca

One word: Cyanide! This root vegetable, a staple of South American cuisine, is packed with vitamins and minerals. But it's also hiding a sneaky, potentially lethal ingredient. The leaves and roots of raw yucca contain cyanogenic glycosides, chemicals that release cyanide when eaten. Yucca is still edible, but make sure you wash it thoroughly, rinse it, peel it, and cook it before consumption.

Kidney beans

Here's another normally healthy food that can be dangerous if eaten the wrong way. Red kidney beans are packed with protein, fiber, and antioxidants, but eating them raw can wreak havoc on your stomach. "Uncooked kidney beans contain the toxin phytohemagglutinin, which can cause unpleasant gastrointestinal discomfort and symptoms similar to food poisoning," says Dr. Davis. Make sure you boil kidney beans for at least ten minutes before eating them. Here are some more health benefits (and risks) of eating beans of all types.

Hot dogs

Hot dogs aren't the most nutritious food as it is, but eating them raw can be downright dangerous. It's a common misconception that, since they're pre-cooked, hot dogs can be eaten right out of the package like lunch meat. This isn't the case at all. According to the FDA, packaged hot dogs can become contaminated with the bacteria Listeria, which can only be killed by reheating the dogs. Here are some foods you might want to avoid eating altogether (because nutritionists avoid them).

Milk 

You might hear "raw milk" and wonder what that could possibly mean. You don't cook milk! But raw milk is real, and it's dangerous. Milk that comes straight from a cow, without being pasteurized, can contain harmful bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella. According to the FDA, raw milk is 150 times more likely to cause foodborne illnesses than other dairy products. The sale of raw milk at grocery stores is still legal in several states, so be sure that you're always buying pasteurized milk. Learn more about the dangers of raw milk.

Sprouts

Sprouts—they're so healthy! What could possibly be wrong with them? Well, alfalfa and radish sprouts can contain pesky harmful bacteria like E. coli, Salmonellaand Listeria. Sprouts are grown in warm, moist conditions where these bacteria thrive. Because of this, you should aim to buy your sprouts as fresh as possible; consider buying them locally or from a farmers' market. And, of course, wash them and cook them. Here are 13 things you should know about farmers' markets.

Bitter almonds

The almonds that we know and love are also called "sweet almonds," and there are some excellent health reasons to eat them. Bitter almonds are kind of like their evil cousin. They're a variety of sweet almonds, but they contain hydrocyanic acid, which is a dangerous combo of hydrogen cyanide and water. According to The Spruce, it would only take about 70 raw bitter almonds to kill a fully grown adult. Yikes! Thankfully, they're safe to eat if they've been cooked, and most U.S. grocery stores don't sell them. The likeliest places you'll encounter them are in almond extract and almond-flavored liqueurs. Can you guess the five healthiest nuts you can eat?

Flour 

You've probably heard, countless times, about the dangers of eating raw eggs, and may have even been shooed away from raw brownie batter or cookie dough for that very reason. But egg is only part of the problem; eating pre-cooked flour might be just as problematic. In recent years, the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have identified raw flour as a potential health hazard. During its journey from wheat stalk to supermarket shelf, flour may have come into contact with pathogens such as E. coli, which can only be banished by cooking whatever the flour is in. Convinced that raw cookie dough is worth the risk? Learn the truth about whether or not it's safe to eat.

Eggplant 

Approach raw eggplant with caution. Raw eggplant contains solanine, the same toxin that makes raw potatoes problematic. "Young eggplants" in particular, or eggplants that were harvested early in their plant lives, contain the most of this toxin. You would have to eat a whole lot of raw eggplant to experience the unpleasant gastrointestinal effects of solanine poisoning, but you might want to go ahead and cook your eggplant anyway. Plus, some people may have allergic reactions to even small amounts of raw eggplant. You can safely ignore these myths about food poisoning.

[Sources: Preventionfoodsforbetterhealth.com]

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