The Ten Dirtiest Foods You Eat -- Top Food Poisoning Culprits

by Sana Sandström

Dirtiest Food List CDCYou cooked. You ate. You celebrated the holiday. Now you're feeling queasy.

You didn't drink too much. You're not pregnant or flip-side, since you're reading an article on, you might have a baby on the way.

You don't have flu symptoms, so what is the problem? It could very well be food poisoning.

Food Poisoning Facts

While food poisoning isn't a medical term, we usually mean that bacteria or virus in the food made us sick.

Some types of bacteria stay in the intestine. Some produce a toxin that's absorbed into the blood stream and can affect the rest of your body. After several hours or even days, you begin experiencing symptoms, depending on the type of bacteria.

Not all food poisoning results in diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal cramps. Other types of symptoms can include weakness, confusion or tingling on your face, hands and feet.

Food Poisoning Symptoms

• Usually the first symptom is diarrhea. Other symptoms include nausea, vomiting and abdominal cramps.

• Your overall health and your age determine how soon symptoms appear, how severe they are and how long they last.

• Babies and young children and the elderly are most affected by food poisoning. Even types that typically are mild can be life-threatening.

• Pregnant women and people with impaired immune systems may also face more severe symptoms.

• In most cases, food poisoning is mild and you recover in a few days to a week.

Call your doctor if a diarrhea is accompanied by:

  • A fever over 101.5° measured orally
  • Prolonged vomiting that prevents keeping liquids down
  • Signs of dehydration
  • Diarrhea that lasts more than three days

Symptoms of Botulism -- Call 911!

• Blurred or double vision
• Trouble swallowing or breathing
• Muscle weakness

Top Ten Food Poisoning Culprits

Unsafe handling practices or contamination from animals or other foods cause most outbreaks of food poisoning. Over the years, it's been noticed that some foods tend to cause more outbreaks than others. These made the "dirtiest foods" top ten.

1. Undercooked Poultry and Meat

Undercooked meat can contain bacteria like E. coli, salmonella and campylobacter. Are you having a rare steak for dinner? You might want to order it well-done. Cook your meats to a safe internal temperature:

-- 145° for steak, pork or roast
-- 160° for ground meats
-- 165° for all poultry, included ground varieties

2. Raw Oysters

Oysters filter feed. If the water they filter is contaminated, so are the oysters. To avoid food poisoning, cook them well. They can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea when undercooked or served raw.

3. Fresh Tuna

This fish can be contaminated by scombrotoxin, which causes flushing, headaches, and cramps. If it's stored above 60 degrees after being caught, the fish can release the toxin. Scombroid toxins can't be destroy by proper cooking. If you suspect your fish might be contaminated, throw it away.

4. Tomatoes

Fruits and vegetables can be contaminated with bacteria. To make sure you don't become a victim, follow these three steps:

1. Wash your hand well before and after preparing fresh produce.
2. Wash fruits and vegetables under running water before eating or cutting.
3. Keep fruits and vegetables that will be eaten raw separate from other foods.

5. Leafy Greens

They're your favorite go-to salad greens but they also caused hundreds of outbreaks since 1990. Greens can be contaminated by manure, dirty water rinses or unwashed hands. To avoid getting sick, wash produce before using. Don't chop on a cutting board used for meat.

6. Sprouts

Sprouts are the poster child for healthy foods but they can be vulnerable to bacterial contamination. It could happen to the seeds in the field or later in the water or warm growing conditions. The CDC recommends that the elderly, young children and people with weakened immune systems avoid eating raw sprouts.

7. Eggs

This favorite breakfast food has been responsible for over 350 outbreaks since 1990, most often due to Salmonella bacteria. To avoid sickness, cook eggs properly and avoid food products that contain raw eggs.

8. Ice Cream

Is nothing sacred? Apparently not even ice cream escapes from bacterial contamination. Raw eggs have been attributed for most of the outbreaks. If you occasionally whip up a batch of home-made ice cream, use a custard base with cooked eggs.

9. Cheese

Cheese can be contaminated with bacteria like Salmonella or Listeria that can cause miscarriages. Soft cheese such as feta, blue, Brie, Camembert or Mexican style cheese most commonly cause outbreaks.

10. Potatoes

A freshly scrubbed potato that's properly cooked isn't apt to cause illness. Potato salad can be another story. Cross contamination from the cutting board or a mayonnaise-based dressing are likely culprits

Other foods that commonly cause food poisoning include berries and raw or unpasteurized milk. Have you had a bout with food poisoning? Which food was implicated?