Food poisoning is a common and unfortunate occurrence that can result from consuming contaminated food. It is essential to be aware of the foods most likely to cause food poisoning to take necessary precautions and ensure food safety. In this comprehensive guide, we will discuss the top nine foods that are frequently associated with foodborne illnesses. Understanding the risks associated with these foods can help you make informed decisions and minimize the chances of falling victim to food poisoning.


Poultry, such as chicken and turkey, is a leading cause of food poisoning. The bacteria commonly associated with poultry, such as Salmonella and Campylobacter, can cause severe gastrointestinal infections. It is crucial to handle poultry safely, ensuring it is cooked thoroughly to kill any harmful bacteria present.


Raw or undercooked eggs pose a significant risk of food poisoning due to the presence of Salmonella bacteria. It is important to cook eggs thoroughly until both the yolk and white are firm to reduce the risk of infection. Avoid consuming dishes that contain raw or partially cooked eggs, such as homemade mayonnaise or Caesar salad dressing.

Raw and Undercooked Meat:

Raw or undercooked meats, including beef, pork, and lamb, are potential sources of food poisoning. These meats can harbor harmful bacteria like E. coli, Salmonella, and Listeria. To ensure safety, cook meats at appropriate temperatures and use a food thermometer to verify doneness.


Shellfish, particularly oysters, clams, and mussels, can carry Vibrio bacteria, which can lead to food poisoning. These bacteria thrive in warm coastal waters. When consuming shellfish, ensure they are thoroughly cooked to destroy any bacteria and avoid consuming raw or undercooked varieties.

Raw Sprouts:

Raw sprouts, such as alfalfa, mung bean, and radish sprouts, have been linked to outbreaks of food poisoning. These sprouts are grown in warm and humid conditions, which are favorable for bacterial growth, including Salmonella and E. coli. Cook sprouts thoroughly or avoid them altogether, especially if you have a weakened immune system.

Leafy Greens:

Leafy greens, including lettuce, spinach, and kale, have been associated with several outbreaks of foodborne illnesses. These greens can become contaminated during production, harvesting, or processing, primarily due to poor hygiene practices. Thoroughly wash and dry leafy greens before consuming, and consider purchasing pre-washed varieties for added safety.

Unpasteurized Dairy Products:

Unpasteurized or raw milk and dairy products pose a significant risk of food poisoning. These products can contain harmful bacteria like Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria. Choose pasteurized dairy products, as pasteurization kills bacteria and ensures food safety.

Raw and Undercooked Fish:

Raw or undercooked fish, including sushi and sashimi, can harbor parasites and bacteria that can cause food poisoning. Freezing fish at very low temperatures can kill parasites, but it may not eliminate all bacterial risks. When consuming fish, ensure it is fresh, properly handled, and cooked to a safe temperature.

Deli Meats and Hot Dogs:

Deli meats and hot dogs are prone to contamination with Listeria bacteria, which can lead to severe infections, particularly in pregnant women and individuals with weakened immune systems. It is essential to handle and store these products properly, ensuring they are heated thoroughly before consumption.


Being aware of the top foods most likely to cause food poisoning is crucial for maintaining food safety. By handling and preparing these foods with care, you can significantly reduce the risk of falling ill from foodborne illnesses. Remember to practice proper food hygiene, including washing hands, utensils, and surfaces, and storing and cooking foods at appropriate temperatures. When in doubt, always consult food safety guidelines and consider seeking medical attention if you suspect food poisoning. Stay informed, stay vigilant, and prioritize food safety to enjoy meals that are both delicious and safe.

Barbara Santini