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Products That Cause Food Poisoning

Theoretically, any food can cause a foodborne illness. But, certain foods are more likely to cause food poisoning than others. For instance, raw meat is much more likely to make you sick than boxed cereals.

According to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), one in six Americans suffers from food poisoning each year. The best way to avoid food poisoning is to know the risks and be diligent about food safety.

This article focuses on the types of foods most likely to cause a foodborne illness. It also discusses other factors that may cause food poisoning. See FindLaw's dangerous foods section for more articles and resources, including types of food poisoning.


Meat is one of the biggest culprits of food poisoning. Raw proteins are hazardous because they contain organisms capable of making you sick. These include E. colisalmonellalisteria, and certain parasites.

Food preparation techniques can reduce the high risk of food poisoning from meat. The only way to kill these organisms is to cook meat to the proper temperature. For instance, cook ham and pork to at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit and beef to 160 degrees.

As with all foods, be careful to avoid cross-contamination with other foods. Always avoid placing food on contaminated surfaces or mixing it with uncooked foods. You should also thoroughly wash cutting boards and utensils.

Contaminated Raw Meat

Raw meat and undercooked meat are common causes of many cases of food poisoning. There are news stories about people getting sick from tainted or spoiled meat. You cannot kill dangerous organisms and bacteria if you don't cook meats like ground beef and steak.

If you serve contaminated meat to your friends or guests, there is a good chance they'll get sick. If this happens, they may be able to sue you for damages. Follow basic safety rules when preparing any meat.


Poultry, which includes chicken, turkey, duck, and other fowl, can cause salmonella, listeria, and campylobacter. These pathogens can remain in poultry meat even after processing and storage.

While people can often eat steaks and some other red meats rare, poultry is especially susceptible to salmonella contamination. Cook it thoroughly. Salmonellosis is among the most common foodborne illnesses in the U.S. You should cook poultry to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees.


If not cooked properly, eggs can cause various foodborne illnesses. Restaurants often include a disclaimer about raw eggs on their menus.

Handle fresh eggs carefully, even those with clean and intact shells. They may contain salmonella. Put store-bought eggs in the refrigerator and cook them until the whites and yolks are firm.

Fried eggs with runny yolks ("sunny side up") may present more of a health risk than fried or scrambled eggs. You don't have to refrigerate eggs you gather from a backyard chicken coop.

Cook casseroles, quiches, and other egg mixtures until the center of the dish is at least 160 degrees. Undercooked eggs can cause the following types of food poisoning:

  • E.coli
  • Listeria
  • Salmonella
  • Hepatitis A

Remember that eggs are generally safe. You just want to ensure you don't eat or drink raw eggs or egg yolks.

Fish and Shellfish

Eating raw seafood is always a gamble. It may contain harmful bacteria, including botulism, and you can get sick if you don't cook it properly. That doesn't mean you can't eat sushi. Restaurants that serve sushi-grade fish take measures to ensure their dishes are safe. Raw fish in sushi restaurants, such as sashimi and ceviche, typically undergo rigorous testing. But if it doesn't look right or smells slightly "off," don't eat it.

Cook fish with fins to 145 degrees. Cook shrimp, lobster, scallops, and crab until the flesh is opaque. Cook your clams, oysters, and mussels until the shells open. Also, some fish, such as tuna, may contain dangerous levels of mercury. Pregnant women and babies should avoid mercury because it is harmful.

Milk and Dairy Products

Milk and dairy products should be safe with the technology available today. They undergo pasteurization before going to stores. But, if you drink unpasteurized milk, you can become extremely ill. Dairy products are prone to contamination if left at room temperature for too long.

There is some controversy over the safety of raw milk. The FDA's official stance is that companies must pasteurize milk to kill dangerous organisms. Raw milk can cause E. coli, salmonella, and listeria. Soft cheeses can also be dangerous. Pregnant women should avoid cheeses made from raw milk.

Some of the other dairy products that can cause foodborne illnesses include:

  • Cheese
  • Ice cream
  • Yogurt
  • Creamer
  • Cottage cheese
  • Sour cream
  • Cream cheese

You should be fine if you make intelligent choices about the dairy products you eat and serve your family. But, if you become sick, you may have a claim for damages.

Dangers of Raw Flour

Most of us cannot imagine eating raw flour. But cookie dough contains both raw eggs and raw flour. It's not safe to eat these things under any conditions. Raw flour can carry salmonella and E. coli. It may be common in the movies to see people eat raw cookie dough. But, in reality, it can make you deathly ill.

Other Food That Can Make You Sick

Even if you properly prepare your meat, dairy, and poultry, you can still get food poisoning. Certain foods are more likely to make you sick. Some of these foods include:

  • Fresh produce
  • Hot dogs
  • Deli meats
  • Contaminated water
  • Leafy greens
  • Raw foods
  • Unwashed fresh fruit

As long as you take standard precautions, you should be perfectly fine. Just use common sense.

Proper and Safe Food Handling

You must begin with food safety education to prevent foodborne illness. Knowing how to properly handle food safely can help prevent food poisoning.

Contaminated food can contaminate other food. A pathogen present in one animal may spoil the whole batch. For instance, a single hamburger may contain meat from hundreds of animals. A single restaurant omelet may have eggs from hundreds of chickens.

Another way to avoid a food poisoning outbreak is to wash your foods before eating them. Wash your cookware, utensils, and countertops with warm, soapy water.

Finally, always keep your food stored at the appropriate temperature. Bacteria, such as salmonella, can multiply quickly on food left at room temperature.

What To Do if You Suspect Food Poisoning

If you think you have food poisoning, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website for a list of symptoms of food poisoning. This site also offers suggestions on when to see your doctor and other vital information.

Staying up-to-date on health information may help reduce the risk of food poisoning. For updates on current outbreaks, food recalls, and tips on food safety, visit

Taking Legal Action Against Food Poisoning

Attorneys handle food poisoning cases like other product liability claims. Most judges decide these cases under strict liability. The plaintiff doesn't need to prove the grocery store or restaurant was negligent. They must only prove that the defendant provided the contaminated food that made them sick.

Consult a product liability attorney to sue somebody for food poisoning. They will help determine your state's laws, legal challenges, and the likelihood of success in recovering damages.

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