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CDC Finds Surprising Sources for Most Food Poisoning

Update Date: Jan 29, 2013 12:06 PM EST

We all know that we should eat a balanced diet. But, according to a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some components of that balanced diet may carry a greater risk of food poisoning. According to the study, leafy greens caused the most food poisoning illnesses, while dairy products caused the greatest amount of hospitalizations and poultry products led to the most amount of deaths. The study marks the first time that the Atlanta-based CDC has tracked food-borne illnesses in connection to certain foods.

According to USA Today, epidemiologists at the health agency found that 23 percent of food-borne illnesses came from leafy greens; dairy products came in second, with 14 percent. However, dairy products led the pack among hospitalizations: 16 percent for dairy products, 14 percent for leafy vegetables and 12 percent for poultry. Poultry had the dubious distinction at causing the most food poisoning deaths with 19 percent, followed by 10 percent for dairy products.

The overall number of deaths were small: 277 people died from illnesses connected to poultry, while 140 people died from diseases linked to dairy. In addition, most of the dairy-related illnesses and deaths came from unpasteurized products, while most Americans consume pasteurized dairy products. Since health officials insist that the overall risk for food poisoning is low and that consumers should not modify their diets to avoid these products, it may seem that this information is of little use. However, the data is important for government agencies and the food industry as they work to make food safer.

For foods like poultry and eggs, the solution for avoiding illness mostly lies in thoroughly cooking the product. However, the process becomes a bit more tricky in the case of prepared salads, NBC News reports. Most illness connected to leafy greens comes in the form of the norovirus, which can only be transmitted by people. That means that the greatest danger comes from the food preparer him or herself - particularly disturbing during this flu season, since most food preparers do not receive sick leave and thus often work while sick.

Other prominent food-borne illnesses were E. coli, Salmonella and Campylobacter, according to the report.

The study was published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.

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