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There's a hot-list of foods that spread food-borne illnesses more than others, but there are a few steps you can take to best protect yourself from any sickness.
So when WebMD, the website which many turn to when they suspect a serious bout of food poisoning, published a list of dozen foods most likely to make you sick, we couldn't help but take notice.
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The list is based on information that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention keeps for cooks looking to keep their kitchens as safe as possible. The shortlist of foods below are linked to food-borne illnesses more frequently than any other on the market. Luckily, there are steps you can take to reduce your chance of illness when eating them.
Which foods are the most likely to get you sick? They're as follows:
Chicken, beef, turkey, and pork
Raw and undercooked meat and poultry are surefire ways to get you sick. Nearly all raw poultry contains a bacteria called campylobacter, which the CDC says is the leading cause of "diarrheal sickness" in the United States. Other illness-causing bacteria linked to questionable meat include salmonella, E. coli, Yersinia (commonly found on raw pork), and C. perfringens (one of the most common bacteria leading to short-term food poisoning.)
Vegetables and fruits
It's crucial to front load your daily diet with tons of fresh vegetables and fruits, but the CDC points out that raw variations can often cause food poisoning from contamination with salmonella, E. coli, and listeria bacteria. The exterior of uncooked fruits and vegetables are especially tricky as they're a breeding ground for bacteria during transportation from farm to table, and especially at risk for cross-contamination in the kitchen. There are more than a few ways to clean them, however, and cooking your veggies is a sure way to eliminate most risk.
Raw milk and cheese
Photo by margouillatphotos via Getty Images
Some might think it's very tasty, but health officials say that raw milk—and the products made with unpasteurized milk—can carry ample bacteria including E. coli, listeria, and salmonella, among others. Other dairy items that are more likely to hide harmful bacteria is feta cheese, brie and camembert, queso fresco, ice cream, and yogurt.
Getty: Kriengkrai Kontasorn
Raw shellfish and seafood
There is a greater chance to get sick with food poisoning from raw fish, yes. But raw shellfish is often more problematic than anything, with staples like oysters containing viruses and bacteria that could cause serious sickness—more than 100 people recently fell ill in California after eating raw oysters contaminated with norovirus.
Warm and humid growing conditions for things like alfalfa and bean sprouts also lend themselves to perfect growing conditions for salmonella, E. coli, and listeria. Thoroughly cooking sprouts before placing them in any dish can help reduce the chance of you getting sick.
Photo: Courtesy of Casabella
The last item on the list is flour, which is usually raw and hasn't been treated—and because we cook with it or use it in our baking, those germs are killed during cooking. Things like raw cookie dough have often been a source of spot for food poisoning given that the flour in these staples haven't been cooked.
The foods that are the most likely to make you sick, according to the Centers for Disease Control
When you think of the foods most likely to get you sick, you may not think of the true worst offenders: fresh fruits and vegetables.
Sure, seafood goes bad easily and meat can frequently be undercooked, but sprouts, spinach, and unpasteurized juices can bowl us over and leave us missing work more often. As part of one of the largest recent outbreaks of a dangerous strain of the bacteria E. coli, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating how romaine lettuce sickened at least 53 people across 16 states. So far, the agency believes the source of the illnesses is contaminated leaves from Arizona.
The CDC also keeps tabs on what foods tend to get us sick most frequently. Pulling from more than a decade of outbreak data, CDC scientist John Painter was able to nail down seven common offenders.
"Surveillance at all levels of government, and its continued modernization, is critical for monitoring COVID-19 trends and identifying groups at risk for infection and severe outcomes," the CDC explains. "These findings highlight the continued need for community mitigation strategies, especially for vulnerable populations, to slow COVID-19 transmission."
Even if people over 65+ count for only 14.2% of reported COVID cases, they count for a staggering 59.6% of COVID deaths. In comparison, young people between ages 18 and 29 count for a notable 22.3%—almost a quarter of cases—but only 0.5% deaths.
You probably wouldn’t dip a spoon into raw flour and eat it. But what about cookie dough or cake batter? It’s rare, but raw flour can be contaminated with E. coli during harvesting, grinding, and sifting. Bleaching flour won’t kill E. coli, which can cause bloody diarrhea, vomiting, and even kidney failure and death. Boxed cake mixes and prepared cookie dough also can harbor germs.
Lettuce, Other Leafy Greens, and Food Safety
Vegetables are an important part of a healthy, balanced diet. Leafy vegetables (called leafy greens on this page) such as lettuce, spinach, cabbage, kale, and bok choy, provide nutrients that help protect you from heart disease, stroke, and some cancers.
But leafy greens, like other vegetables and fruits, are sometimes contaminated with harmful germs. Washing does not remove all germs because they can stick to the surfaces of leaves and even get inside them. If you eat contaminated raw (uncooked) leafy greens, such as in a salad, you might get sick. To prevent contamination, leafy greens should be grown and handled safely at all steps in the journey from farm to fork.
- CDC estimates that germs on produce that is eaten raw cause a large percentage of U.S. foodborne illnesses (also called food poisoning).
- Leafy greens and other vegetable row crops are a major source of E. coli O157 infections.
- Other harmful germs found on leafy greens include norovirus, Salmonella, Listeria, and Cyclospora.
Although anyone can get food poisoning, these groups are more likely to get sick and to have a more serious illness:
- Adults aged 65 and older
- Children younger than 5 years
- People who have health problems or take medicines that lower the body&rsquos ability to fight germs and sickness (a weakened immune system)
- Pregnant women
Read these Q&As to learn more about how leafy greens get contaminated and how to lower your chance of getting sick from eating leafy greens.
How common are foodborne disease outbreaks linked to leafy greens?
During 2014 to 2018, 51 foodborne disease outbreaks linked to leafy greens (mainly lettuce) were reported to CDC. Five were multistate outbreaks that led CDC to issue warnings to the public. Among those, two outbreaks were linked to packaged salads and two were linked to romaine lettuce. The specific type of leafy greens could not be determined for the other outbreak.
The 1,406 illnesses caused by those 51 outbreaks represent only a small proportion of all illnesses caused by contaminated leafy greens in those years. That&rsquos because most foodborne illnesses are not part of a recognized outbreak. Some outbreaks never lead to consumer warnings because the food is no longer in stores, restaurants, or homes by the time it is identified as the source. Usually the source is not identified, and people might not even suspect that their illness was caused by contaminated food. Also, most outbreaks affect people in only one state, so local or state health departments lead work to identify, investigate, and communicate about those outbreaks.
Most recently, in 2019 and 2020, CDC investigated and issued public warnings on three multistate outbreaks linked to leafy greens.
How do leafy greens get contaminated?
Germs that make people sick can be found in many environments, including in the soil, in the intestines of animals, in refrigerators, and on kitchen surfaces.
Germs can contaminate leafy greens at many points before they reach your plate. For example, leafy greens can get contaminated from animal poop in irrigation water or the field where they grow, in packing and processing facilities, in trucks when they&rsquore transported to the store, from the unwashed hands of food handlers, and in the kitchen.
Read a study by CDC and partners on what we have learned from ten years of investigating E. coli outbreaks linked to leafy greens.
What foodborne infections are most often linked to leafy greens?
Germs that most often cause illness transmitted by leafy vegetables are norovirus, Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) such as O157, and Salmonella, according to a CDC analysis external icon of foodborne disease outbreaks from 1973 through 2012. Listeria and Cyclospora also cause these illnesses.
Are leafy greens safe to eat?
Millions of servings of leafy greens are consumed safely every day. However, leafy greens are occasionally contaminated enough to cause illness.
What is the best way to wash leafy greens?
Studies show that thoroughly rinsing fresh produce under running water removes some of the germs and dirt. No washing method completely removes all germs.
Check to see if your prepackaged leafy greens are labeled ready to eat, triple washed, or no washing necessary. These leafy greens do not need to be washed again. Although prewashed greens aren&rsquot guaranteed to be safe, the washing process should have removed most contamination. All other leafy greens should be thoroughly washed before eating, cutting, or cooking.
Follow the steps below for leafy greens you plan to eat raw:
- for 20 seconds with soap and water before and after preparing leafy greens.
- Discard outer leaves and any torn or bruised ones.
- Rinse the leafy greens under running water and use your hands to gently rub the surface of the leaves.
- Don&rsquot soak leafy greens in a sink filled with water. They can get contaminated with germs in the sink.
- Don&rsquot soak leafy greens in a bowl filled with water. Contamination from one leaf can spread through the water to other leaves.
- If you do not have access to safe tap water, rinse with other drinkable water (such as filtered, bottled, or distilled water).
Can I use vinegar, lemon juice, soap, or produce wash to clean leafy greens?
FDA does not recommend washing vegetables and fruit with soap, detergent, or produce washes. Do not use bleach solution or other disinfectants to wash produce.
FDA recommends using plain, running water. Kitchen vinegar and lemon juice may be used, but CDC is not aware of evidence that they are any better than running water.
What other food safety steps should I keep in mind when I select, store, and prepare leafy greens and other produce?
- Select vegetables and fruits that aren&rsquot bruised or damaged. Make sure any pre-cut products, such as bagged salad mixes or cut produce, are refrigerated or on ice in the store and at home.
- Separate produce from raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs in your shopping cart, grocery bags, and refrigerator.
- Store vegetables and fruits, including pre-cut and packaged produce and salads, in a clean refrigerator with the temperature set to 40°F or below.
- Wash utensils, cutting boards, and kitchen surfaces with hot, soapy water after each use.
- Use separate cutting boards and utensils for fresh produce and raw foods that come from animals, such as meat, poultry, and seafood. If that isn&rsquot an option, prepare produce before working with raw meat.
- Cook thoroughly or throw away any produce that comes in contact with raw meat, poultry, or seafood or their juices.
- Remove the outer layer of leaves from heads of lettuce and cabbage. Cut away bruised or damaged parts.
- Refrigerate cooked or cut produce, including salads, within 2 hours (or 1 hour if the air temperature is 90° or warmer).
Are organic leafy greens less likely to cause food poisoning than non-organic ones?
All produce, including organic leafy greens, can be contaminated with harmful germs at any point from farm to fork. CDC is not aware of any evidence that organic greens are safer.
Are hydroponic or greenhouse-grown leafy greens less likely to cause food poisoning?
Leafy greens grown using these methods also can be contaminated with harmful germs at any point from farm to fork.
How do I keep leafy greens in my garden safe to eat?
Home gardens can be an excellent source of fruits and vegetables. Follow these tips to help prevent food poisoning:
- Plant your garden away from animal pens, compost bins, and manure piles.
- Water your garden with clean, drinkable water. Minimize contact between dirty water, including storm runoff, and the edible part of your crops.
Can pets and other animals get sick if they eat contaminated leafy greens?
Some animals can get sick from some germs that also make people sick. Follow the food safety steps described above before feeding leafy greens to pets and other animals. Never feed recalled food to pets.
What should I do with leafy greens that are part of a recall?
- Never eat, serve, or sell food that has been recalled, even if some of it was eaten and no one got sick.
- Return the recalled food to the store or dispose of it properly at home.
- Throw out the recalled food and any other foods stored with it or that touched it.
- Put it in a sealed bag in an outside garbage can with a tight lid (so animals cannot get to it).
- If the recalled food was stored in a reusable container, wash the container in the dishwasher or with hot, soapy water.
What steps are industry and the government taking to make leafy greens safer?
The leafy greens industry, FDA, and state regulatory authorities have been implementing provisions of the Produce Safety Rule external icon as part of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). external icon They are considering what further measures can be taken. FDA&rsquos 2020 Leafy Greens STEC Action Plan external icon describes the agency&rsquos plans to work with partners to make leafy greens safer.
These Are the Foods That Cause the Most Illnesses, the CDC Says
If all the produce-related food recalls this summer have you giving your local grocery store salad bar the side eye, that’s completely fair. But, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are plenty of other foods you should be more concerned about.
The researchers found 5,760 outbreaks that caused 100,939 illnesses, 5,699 hospitalizations, and 145 deaths in the U.S. during that time. All 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico reported outbreaks. (An outbreak is defined as two or more cases of a similar illness that happens after people eat a common food, the CDC says. So if you get sick after leaving your plate of potato salad out in the heat for too long, it doesn’t qualify.)
The foods that were most often implicated in outbreaks were:
Fish (17 percent of all outbreaks)
Dairy (11 percent of all outbreaks)
Chicken (10 percent of all outbreaks)
But some foods were more likely to cause outbreak-related illnesses. Those were:
Chicken (12 percent of cases)
Seeded vegetables (10 percent of cases)
The researchers also found that norovirus was responsible for 38 percent of the outbreaks, salmonella was responsible for another 30 percent, and shiga toxin-producing escherichia coli (STEC) was implicated in 6 percent. Other causes (including campylobacter, clostridium perfringens, scombroid toxin, ciguatoxin, staphylococcus aureus, vibrio parahaemolyticus, and listeria monocytogenes) were all responsible for 5 percent or fewer outbreaks.
As SELF wrote previously, norovirus is a contagious illness that affects the gastrointestinal tract and tends to cause classic food poisoning symptoms, like vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea that lasts for about three days. Although it's common (especially in confined spaces like cruise ships), most healthy adults are able to recover from a norovirus infection without extensive treatment—they just need to stay hydrated and get some quality rest.
When it comes to the bacteria most likely to cause serious illnesses (including hospitalizations, deaths, outbreak-associated illnesses), the top offenders were listeria, salmonella, and STEC. In fact, salmonella and listeria have been finding their way into many foods that weren’t considered a risk in the past, like cereal, crackers, and peanuts, which is especially concerning, Darin Detwiler, Ph.D., director of the Regulatory Affairs of Food and Food Industries program at Northeastern University, tells SELF.
In most healthy adults, many foodborne illnesses will be uncomfortable but temporary annoyances. However, for those who have other health issues, they can be incredibly serious and even deadly. Those who are most susceptible are people who are immunocompromised, including people with HIV, those who are undergoing chemotherapy, very young children whose immune systems haven’t developed yet, pregnant women, and elderly people, food safety expert Felicia Wu, Ph.D., a professor at Michigan State University, tells SELF.
Interestingly, the CDC report revealed that, in cases where health officials could actually pinpoint an original source of an outbreak, 61 percent of the outbreaks were traced back to restaurants, while only 12 percent started in private homes. Among those restaurants, sit-down dining style restaurants were the most commonly reported type of restaurant behind an outbreak, followed by catering or banquet halls, and schools. The places with the largest number of illnesses per outbreak were schools, while restaurants had the smallest number of illnesses per outbreak.
20 Foods You Should Always Avoid While Traveling, According to Doctors
Among the most enticing reasons to go abroad: the chance to challenge your palette with new cuisines. Fried tuna eyeballs? Roasted rodents? Jellied moose nose? Yeah, good luck finding that fare stateside. Well, as it turns out, that may be for the best as those are considered unsafe foods that you should definitely avoid while traveling.
Though these foodie adventures are seemingly innocent, harmful bacteria may be lurking insidiously in many culinary options. To help you navigate the culinary landscape abroad, we've cobbled together expert advice from those who know best: doctors. Even these experts wouldn't eat some of the stuff—from berries to bats (yes, bats)—on this list.
It should come as no surprise that consuming raw meat and seafood can pose a danger to your gut and overall health while traveling abroad. Uncooked and undercooked meat and seafood can cause health scares even in developed countries like the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control, any raw cut of meat or seafood, even if it has been "cooked" with citrus juice or vinegar, is always to be avoided on your travels. It's likely swimming with germs that can pose serious problems to your health—and, worst of all, may delay your travels.
Bushmeat—local game like bats, monkeys, or rodents—is another no-go. According to the CDC, these animals often contain diseases like Ebola or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which, at their worst, can be life-threatening. If you're browsing through the meat selection offered by the local street vendors, it's always a good idea to ask what it is that you're eating first.
As a rule of thumb, any fresh produce without a protective skin that you first must peel off before consuming is not a good idea. Since local water in less-developed countries is often not safe to drink, consuming food that has been washed in this water is also unsafe.
Apples are another example of fresh produce that should be avoided at all costs. The only time that you should ever consider eating an apple is when you can wash it yourself with safe drinking water. And to minimize your risk of contagion, be sure to peel it, too.
According to Jane Wilson-Howarth, a physician and author of The Essential Guide to Travel Health, frozen foods pose a few health risks as they sit on the freezer shelf. This "high-risk" preparation is caused by the constant freezing and de-thawing of the food that can produce harmful bacteria. Not only that, but the ice used to freeze these items comes with the risk of contamination.
Sauce, according to Wilson-Howarth, is another thing to be wary of while traveling, especially since you don't know what ingredients it may contain. If you're not paying attention to the ingredients (if they're listed), then that's your first mistake. If you're not careful, you could be consuming products made with unsafe water or uncooked herbs and eggs that could pose significant threats to your health. If you simply must sample a few local sauces (we don't blame you), then be sure that they're thoroughly cooked and still hot.
If you have never eaten anything in the crustacean group like shrimp, lobster, and crab, it wouldn't be a good idea to be adventurous on your trip. For one thing, it would be a bad time to find out about your shellfish allergies while traveling in an unfamiliar country. But on top of that, since shellfish are considered "bottom feeders," they carry far more bacteria than other seafood selections. If you'd still like to go for it, at the very least make sure that it's been thoroughly cooked.
Pay attention to this rule if you're planning on traveling to a country with a lot of pollution, as fruits and vegetables are harder to keep clean the lower they grow to the ground, says Wilson-Howarth. If you're craving a salad with fresh vegetables, opt for packaged items that have not been exposed to any water. But beware: purchasing fruits and vegetables that have already been pre-cut in the supermarket means that preparers have already cleaned the fruit with local water, which may be unsafe to consume.
Since food regulations vary from country to country (and many are not as strict as our own), it's safest to simply steer clear of unpasteurized dairy products they, according to the Food and Drug Administration, may contain diseases like Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria, all of which can be life-threatening.
In countries like Thailand and Mexico, street vendors have remained an essential part of the culture and cuisine. However, while much of the food offered on the street is perfectly safe, there are certain risks that can be avoided with shrewd attention to detail. While trying to pick out food on the street, there are a few things to look out for. For one, how clean is the stall? If there are bits of food and trash in the stall, get your meal elsewhere. Next, how many people are in line? If there are men, women, and children grabbing food from the vendor, then it's probably safe. And finally, if any of the meat offered at the stall is not being covered by the cook, then that increases the likelihood that the food is contaminated.
Similar to other frozen foods, unfortunately, this travel staple is better left untouched. The only time it may be acceptable to lick some soft serve is when you're purchasing it from a well-reputed chain or popular shop. Never buy ice cream from small stands with no one in line—this is a definite red flag. If you're still craving something sweet, Wilson-Howarth recommends going for a fruit sorbet that contains more acid and fewer bacteria.
Again, all meat that is not fresh off the grill is not a safe bet for your delicate American stomach, according to David L. Roque, a family medicine physician and travel-medicine specialist at Swedish Covenant Hospital and Roque-Ponton Medical Group S.C. in Chicago. "When you're traveling, you should only eat fully cooked, hot, steaming food," he tells The Washington Post. Further, any cheese left out in deli cases are carrying bacteria that you don't want to mess with.
If you're traveling in the Amazon Basin and a local tribesman offers you this local fermented drink, don't be tempted. Chicha is a fermented beverage usually derived from grains, maize, or fruit—and more often than not—saliva. It's custom for local tribeswomen to chew cassava root and literally spit it back into the concoction.
Similar to street vendors, there are certain situations that present red flags while wining and dining abroad. If the restaurant is empty even during peak hours, there's probably a reason—and you shouldn't stick around to find out what that reason may be. Head to restaurants that have an international or national following, or are popular with the locals. Unlike street vendors, you can't actually watch the cooks prepare your food.
Buffets are yet another breeding ground for unwanted bacteria. The longer food sits out, the more bacteria cling to the meal you're about to ingest. Skip these places altogether. Not only will you save yourself from a week of throwing up into foreign toilets, but you'll also save avoid hundreds of unneeded calories.
We should all be more vigilant about where we get our salad from, especially since the latest E. coli outbreak in the United States was traced back to romaine lettuce. While it is best to avoid salad while traveling abroad, if you must get a healthy meal fix, opt to purchase pre-packaged that hasn't touched any local water source, since fresh lettuce always carries the risk of contamination.
Because most fried rice is made with bits of cooked meat, the chances of picking up bacteria and disease increases as the meat is left over and then flash-fried, says Wilson-Howarth. Opt instead for a safer staple like hot broth. "It's very refreshing and it's safer. It gives you energy and it hydrates," she says.
The CDC maintains that all travelers in foreign countries with a questionable water source should stick with bottled water at all times. If you need to use local water, make sure you boil it beforehand. The following countries are known to have the worst drinking water in the world: Mexico, Congo, Pakistan, Ghana, Nepal, Cambodia, Nigeria, China, Russia, Turkey, and the entire continent of South America.
Most restaurants make their fountain drinks using local tap water, so your choice of soft drink is best served in a can while traveling abroad.
Since water comes from ice, this one should come as no surprise. When you're ordering whiskey abroad, be sure to take it neat. And for more ways to avoid being sidelined while vacationing, check out these 30 Smart Ways to Avoid Getting Sick When You Travel.
- Bacteria and Viruses:Bacteria and viruses are the most common cause of food poisoning. The symptoms and severity of food poisoning vary, depending on which bacteria or virus has contaminated the food.
- Parasites: Parasites are organisms that derive nourishment and protection from other living organisms known as hosts. In the United States, the most common foodborne parasites are protozoa, roundworms, and tapeworms.
- Molds, Toxins, and Contaminants: Most food poisoning is caused by bacteria, viruses, and parasites rather than toxic substances in the food. But some cases of food poisoning can be linked to either natural toxins or added chemical toxins.
- Allergens: Food allergy is an abnormal response to a food triggered by your body's immune system. Some foods, such as nuts, milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat or soybeans, can cause allergic reactions in people with food allergies.
Symptoms may range from mild to severe and differ depending on the germ you swallowed. The most common symptoms of food poisoning include:
- Upset stomach
- Stomach cramps
Serious long-term effects associated with several common types of food poisoning include:
Choose anti-inflammatory foods
"There is not enough research to support that anti-inflammatory foods or supplements such as vitamin C will make the COVID vaccine more effective. But in general, eating highly nutritious food and taking vitamin C does help the immune system," says Dr. Heather Koza, MD, family medicine physician at Comprehensive Integrative Healthcare in Michigan. (Learn more about the best immune-supporting vitamins and minerals.)
Dr. William Li, MD, co-founder and medical director of the Angiogenesis Foundation and author of Eat To Beat Disease: The New Science of How Your Body Can Heal Itself agrees, "There is no hard evidence taking any supplements can make the COVID vaccine work better. The COVID vaccines have all been tested in people who were eating their usual diets, so we know they are effective without any special nutritional preparation. People should be wary of any supplements or products that claim to enhance vaccine response."
However, eating mostly whole foods like fruits and vegetables and fewer processed foods will help your immune system work better in general because of less inflammation in the body. "A healthy diet that is maintained long-term can improve immune responsiveness and help us fight infections better and perhaps boost immune response to vaccination, but it&aposs doubtful that eating differently on the morning of the vaccine will have any impact at all on vaccine responsiveness," says Dr. Louis Malinow, M.D., internal medicine physician and medical advisor to Persona Nutrition.
Reach for whole foods and reduce consumption of processed foods all year round, not just when getting the vaccine. "Vegetable oils like corn oil, soybean oil, and others which show up in processed foods (like fast food) and snack bags and boxes are uniquely inflammatory and should be avoided," says Dr. Malinow. Instead, focus on whole foods like nuts, fish, fruit and vegetables. "If I had to name my favorite anti-inflammatory foods, it would be daily extra virgin olive oil, almonds and walnuts, fish, fruit and veggies," he says.
It won&apost hurt to eat anti-inflammatory foods after getting the vaccine but it probably won&apost make much of a difference in how you feel. "Turmeric is a spice with anti-inflammatory properties and could be sprinkled on food or consumed in tea. Fish is also anti-inflammatory, and salmon, mackerel, sardines, anchovies and herring have the most anti-inflammatory omega-3s. Fish oil (omega-3 fats) actually turn into compounds called &aposresolvins&apos which mean they&aposre resolving inflammation," says Dr. Malinow.
These foods are good to incorporate into your diet all the time. Seeing as you might not feel up to making a proper dinner after your vaccine, it&aposs okay to make some chicken noodle soup or have something else on hand that&aposs easy and comforting. It might be nice to have one of these make-ahead freezer meals on hand.
How Long Can Your Groceries Sit In A Hot Car Without Making You Sick?
There are plenty of things that make running errands in warm weather really nice. Like, not feeling as if your face is going to freeze off while you hustle from your car to the store. And not having to worry about snow, ice, or sleet turning all the roads and parking lots into a complete mess.
One thing that's not so nice? Hot temperatures mean all that food you just bought at the supermarket is basically a ticking time bomb for harmful bacteria growth. (Put those groceries to good use with the 180+ recipes in Prevention's Eat Clean, Lose Weight & Love Every Bite&mdashtry it FREE for 21 days!)
Before you start rolling your eyes and muttering something about the food safety police, consider this: You'd obviously never store groceries in a metal box that's sitting out in the summer sun, right? But when you pack your bags in the car, that's exactly what you're doing. On hot, sunny days, the temperature inside your car can soar to as high as 172 degrees, according to the CDC. Not exactly ideal for stuff like meat, fish, chicken, or dairy. (Pushed your luck? Here are 4 signs you have food poisoning.)
Of course, that number will start to drop once you open your windows or crank up the air conditioning. But the inside of your car still be more than warm enough for nasty bugs that could potentially make you sick to start flourishing on your food.
Exactly how long do you have before that pack of chicken cutlets or quart of milk starts to go south? The answer depends on where you live and what the weather is like, says Deirdre Schlunegger, CEO of the nonprofit public health organization STOP Foodborne Illness. Still, the specifics are almost beside the point. "Heat is a good medium for bacteria growth, so you want to minimize it as much as you can. The less time you have between shopping and going home, the better," she says. (These are the 9 foods most likely to make you sick.)
That means no stopping off at the bank or wandering into the wholesale club after you're done at the market. "If you need to make other stops, do those before you go to the grocery store," Schlunegger says. (You know what would make your life a lot easier? Grocery shopping online.)
It also means being smart about shopping for and packing up your groceries. In the store, get into the habit of sweeping through the meat and dairy aisles last, to ensure that those items spend the least amount of time in your cart. Once you reach the checkout counter, pack the cold items in an insulated bag with an ice pack. If you have a long ride home, it might even be worth storing your stuff in a cooler to keep it extra chilled, says Schlunegger. (Looking for less waste? This is what a package-free grocery store looks like.)
Once you reach the car, put your bags inside the passenger area, Schlunegger recommends. Even if you don't use the AC, it'll still be infinitely cooler than your furnace of a trunk. Then head straight home and get everything into the refrigerator or freezer ASAP.
Sure, this might feel a little hypervigilant. But it sure beats getting food poisoning. (And if you do end up getting sick, here's how to recover fast.)