Foodborne Illness and High-Risk Foods

hot dog

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Download: The Safe Food Choices Tip Sheet

Everyone is at risk for foodborne illness, or food poisoning, but some people are more vulnerable to its effects. Older adults, young children, pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems are at higher risk. That's why it's important to make wise food choices and always safely handle food.

Avoid High-Risk Foods

Some foods come with a greater risk of food poisoning. These include:

  • Raw or undercooked meat or poultry
  • Raw or undercooked fish and shellfish, including sashimi, sushi or ceviche
  • Refrigerated smoked fish
  • Unpasteurized, or raw, milk
  • Soft cheeses made from unpasteurized, or raw, milk, including Feta, Brie, Camembert, Blue-veined varieties and Queso fresco
  • Foods that contain raw or undercooked eggs – like raw cookie dough or homemade eggnog, mayonnaise and Caesar dressing.
  • Raw sprouts
  • Unwashed fresh vegetables (including lettuce and salads)
  • Hot dogs, deli and luncheon meats that have not been reheated to 165°F
  • Unpasteurized, refrigerated pâtés or meat spread.

Choose Low-Risk Foods

 Lower risk options are available for many of the foods listed above. These include:

  • Meat, poultry and shellfish cooked to safe internal temperatures.
  • Packaged salad dressings and condiments, such as Caesar dressing and mayonnaise, which are made with pasteurized eggs or pasteurized egg products.
  • Pasteurized milk, cheese and eggnog
  • Canned or shelf-stable pâtés or meat spreads
  • Canned fish and seafood.

Safe Food Handling Tips

Choosing lower-risk foods is only part of the equation. Everyone should practice safe food handling. Follow the four steps of food safety whenever you’re working with food — wash, separate, cook and refrigerate. This will help reduce the risk of foodborne illness.

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