When you sit down to a meal, the last thing you want to worry about is whether or not the food on your plate might hurt you.
But the reality is that some types of food could have major risks to your health. A handful of these foods have been linked to serious recalls in recent years, according to Consumer Reports.
In some cases, consumption of tainted foods has resulted in outbreaks of disease. Each year, bacteria and viruses found in food sicken about 48 million people, according to Consumer Reports, which cites figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In addition, around 130,000 people are hospitalized and 3,000 die from foodborne illnesses each year.
With those sobering statistics in mind, following are the types of foods most often linked to such illnesses. Consumer Reports based its list on foods subject to serious recalls and illness outbreaks between 2017 and 2022.
Specific type of products recalled: Romaine lettuce and bagged salad
Reason for recalls: E. coli and listeria
Number of food recalls and foodborne disease outbreaks involving this food (2017-2022): 50
Consumer Reports notes that leafy greens were responsible for more deaths — 11 — than any other food in their survey. The publication says contaminated water used in field irrigation likely contributes to the problem.
To stay safe, CR recommends buying whole-head lettuce and stripping off and disposing of the outer leaves.
Cheeses and deli meats
Specific type of products recalled: Sausage, salami, ham, lunch meats, sliced cheeses and soft cheeses (such as brie and queso fresco)
Reason for recalls: Listeria
Number of food recalls and foodborne disease outbreaks involving this food (2017-2022): 122
Even at cold temperatures, listeria can thrive, Consumer Reports notes. About 90% of those sickened with listeria end up in the hospital.
Buying prepackaged cheeses and deli meats might reduce your risk of ending up with contaminated food. And avoiding cold cuts entirely might be an even better move, as we note in “Should You Stop Eating Any Processed Meats?”
Specific type of products recalled: Packaged ground beef
Reason for recalls: E. coli and salmonella
Number of food recalls and foodborne disease outbreaks involving this food (2017-2022): 22
Salmonella is the more common of the hazards associated with ground beef. It was a factor in 416 of 643 illnesses linked to consuming ground beef.
Keeping meat separate from other groceries can stop the spread of bacteria to other foods should you be unfortunate enough to pick up a tainted package.
Proper handling and storage of ground beef at home also can lower your risk, as can cooking ground beef to at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
Other high-risk foods
The rest of the foods that made the Consumer Reports list are:
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