Leafy Greens: The Biggest Culprit Behind Food Poisoning

And steps you can take to cut your risk of foodborne illnesses.
According to a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, leafy greens caused the most food poisoning illnesses, while poultry products led to the most number of deaths.

Now, the purpose of this study is not to suggest that you modify your diet to avoid these products, say health officials, because they are an essential part of a balanced diet. The vital lesson to be learnt here is the importance of practicing safe food handling.

"Safe food-handling procedures can help protect you from foodborne illnesses while still allowing you to enjoy these tasty and nutritious foods," says registered dietitian and Academy Spokesperson Rachel Begun.

Wash your hands

"One of the most important things you can do to stay healthy is to wash your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds with soap and water, especially when it comes to the particularly nasty norovirus," she adds. "The norovirus accounted for 46 percent of the illnesses according to this study, and while hand sanitizer is great to reduce the spread of some germs, research shows us that soap and water is best."

Here are more steps you can take to reduce the risk of food poisoning:


Properly wash all fresh fruits and vegetables, whether they have a peel or not, with cool tap water just before eating.

Cut away any damaged or bruised areas before preparing or eating. Remove and discard outer leaves of lettuce.

Dry produce with a clean cloth or paper towel to further reduce bacteria that may be present.

Cut all fruits and vegetables on a separate cutting board from raw meats and fish. Color-coded cutting boards can help you remember which is which.

Cook raw sprouts, such as alfalfa and clover, to significantly reduce the risk of illness.

Poultry and meat

At the grocery store, pick up the meat last and ask to have it bagged separately from other groceries to prevent cross-contamination.

Store meat in the coldest part of the refrigerator at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Use fresh, raw chicken within one- to two days of purchase, meats within three to four days, and throw away ground meats, sausage and organ meats after two days. Cooked meats should be eaten or frozen within three to four days.

Wash hands thoroughly for 20 seconds before and after handling raw meat, and use a separate cutting board for raw meats and fish to avoid cross contamination.

Defrost meats in the refrigerator or in the microwave by using the defrost setting. Never defrost on the counter. Cook meat that has been thawed in the microwave immediately and do not re-freeze thawed meat.

Use a food thermometer to ensure meats are cooked to the safe minimum internal temperature.

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