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Your Health
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25 Foods That Could Increase Your Risk of Getting a Foodborne Illness

With bacteria lurking, food safety becomes a growing concern but CDC data indicate common culprits

Shrimp is on the list of common sources of foodborne illnesses, but data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that outbreaks have declined in recent years. Click to view larger
Shrimp is on the list of common sources of foodborne illnesses, but data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that outbreaks have declined in recent years. (HealthGrove photo via Shutterstock)

An outbreak of E. coli last year at a national restaurant chain has focused attention on foodborne illnesses and the importance of food safety.

Knowing where your meals come from and the risks associated with different types of food is key to keeping potential bacteria at bay.

Of course, there are times when you cannot anticipate when a meal is safe. Summerland-based HealthGrove crunched the numbers to identify the top 25 foods that are most commonly involved in foodborne illness outbreaks.

The health data visualization site, part of the Graphiq network, looked at data from the Centers for Disease Control and Protection, which documented all known foodborne illness outbreaks from 1998-2014.

It is important to note that the CDC aggregates foodborne illness reports from state and local reporting agencies, and it is up to these agencies to classify the food that caused a given outbreak. The CDC then found the food types that caused the most outbreaks in that time span and ranked them by the most average annual outbreaks. Ties are broken by the average number of people affected per outbreak.

From the CDC: CDC is only directly involved in outbreak investigations that involve more than one state, or are particularly large, or when the state or local health department requests assistance. Click here for more information about the CDC’s investigations of foodborne illness outbreaks.

#25 - Coleslaw

Average annual outbreaks: 5.35
Average number of illnesses: 21.03
Total outbreaks: 91
Most common bacteria or virus type: Norovirus Genogroup I

#24 - Refried Beans

Average annual outbreaks: 5.59
Average number of illnesses: 16.24
Total outbreaks: 95
Most common bacteria or virus type: Clostridium perfringens

#23 - Lettuce

Average annual outbreaks: 5.65
Average number of illnesses: 25.94
Total outbreaks: 96
Most common bacteria or virus type: Norovirus Genogroup I

#22 - Ham

Average annual outbreaks: 5.65
Average number of illnesses: 32.09
Total outbreaks: 96
Most common bacteria or virus type: Staphylococcus aureus

#21 - Taco

Average annual outbreaks: 5.88
Average number of illnesses: 16.32
Total outbreaks: 100
Most common bacteria or virus type: Clostridium perfringens

#20 - Ice

Average annual outbreaks: 6
Average number of illnesses: 33.16
Total outbreaks: 102
Most common bacteria or virus type: Norovirus Genogroup I

#19 - Shrimp

Average annual outbreaks: 6.06
Average number of illnesses: 8.49
Total outbreaks: 103
Most common bacteria or virus type: Vibrio parahaemolyticus

#18 - Burrito

Average annual outbreaks: 6.12
Average number of illnesses: 38.61
Total outbreaks: 104
Most common bacteria or virus type: Clostridium perfringens

#17 - Soup

Average annual outbreaks: 6.24
Average number of illnesses: 13
Total outbreaks: 106
Most common bacteria or virus type: Clostridium perfringens

#16 - Tuna

Average annual outbreaks: 6.41
Average number of illnesses: 5.78
Total outbreaks: 109
Most common bacteria or virus type: Scombroid toxin

#15 - Potato

Average annual outbreaks: 6.41
Average number of illnesses: 34
Total outbreaks: 109
Most common bacteria or virus type: Norovirus Genogroup I

#14 - Eggs

Average annual outbreaks: 6.53
Average number of illnesses: 20.03
Total outbreaks: 111
Most common bacteria or virus type: Salmonella enterica

#13 - Potato Salad

Average annual outbreaks: 7.24
Average number of illnesses: 42.09
Total outbreaks: 123
Most common bacteria or virus type: Norovirus Genogroup I

#12 - Salad

Average annual outbreaks: 10.88
Average number of illnesses: 23.3
Total outbreaks: 185
Most common bacteria or virus type: Norovirus Genogroup I

#11 - Cake

Average annual outbreaks: 11.06
Average number of illnesses: 26.66
Total outbreaks: 188
Most common bacteria or virus type: Norovirus Genogroup I

#10 - Turkey

Average annual outbreaks: 11.65
Average number of illnesses: 35.33
Total outbreaks: 198
Most common bacteria or virus type: Salmonella enterica

#9 - Oysters

Average annual outbreaks: 13.35
Average number of illnesses: 11.3
Total outbreaks: 227
Most common bacteria or virus type: Vibrio parahaemolyticus

#8 - Green Salads

Average annual outbreaks: 15.82
Average number of illnesses: 25.77
Total outbreaks: 269
Most common bacteria or virus type: Norovirus Genogroup I

#7 - Pizza

Average annual outbreaks: 17.12
Average number of illnesses: 7.88
Total outbreaks: 291
Most common bacteria or virus type: Staphylococcus aureus

#6 - Rice

Average annual outbreaks: 17.65
Average number of illnesses: 11.36
Total outbreaks: 300
Most common bacteria or virus type: Bacillus cereus

#5 - Pork

Average annual outbreaks: 17.88
Average number of illnesses: 21.39
Total outbreaks: 304
Most common bacteria or virus type: Salmonella enterica

#4 - Fish

Average annual outbreaks: 33.06
Average number of illnesses: 5.13
Total outbreaks: 562
Most common bacteria or virus type: Ciguatoxin

#3 - Sandwiches

Average annual outbreaks: 35.24
Average number of illnesses: 18.03
Total outbreaks: 599
Most common bacteria or virus type: Norovirus Genogroup I

#2 - Beef

Average annual outbreaks: 48.65
Average number of illnesses: 19.62
Total outbreaks: 827
Most common bacteria or virus type: Clostridium perfringens

#1 - Chicken

Average annual outbreaks: 49.41
Average number of illnesses: 17.51
Total outbreaks: 840
Most common bacteria or virus type: Salmonella enterica

Click here to research more health conditions on HealthGrove.

— Natalie Morin is an editorial lead at Graphiq, a Summerland data analysis and visualization startup. This article is based on data curated by HealthGrove, a division of Graphiq.

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