The Types of Meat Most Likely to Make You Sick

DC-based Center for Science in the Public Interest’s most recent report analyzes the meat products most likely to cause foodborne illnesses.

Although not exactly nutritious, chicken nuggets are at least less likely to cause foodborne illnesses, along with ham and sausage, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest's report “Risky Meat: A Field Guide to Meat & Poultry Safety." Photograph via Shutterstock.

The DC-based Center for Science in the Public Interest is at it again with its mission to transform the American diet. Its most recent report, which analyzed 33,000 cases of foodborne illnesses related to meat, found that chicken and ground beef pose the highest risks.

The report, “Risky Meat: A Field Guide to Meat & Poultry Safety,” ranked 12 categories of meat and poultry based on reports of foodborne illnesses and outbreaks. Researchers found that chicken caused the highest number of outbreaks, with 452 reported in the past 12 years; ground beef came right behind, with 336 outbreaks. The two meat products are often contaminated with salmonella and E. coli, respectively, according to the report.

Ground beef posed the highest risk overall since E. coli is estimated to cause hospitalization in almost half of those infected.

Fans of chicken nuggets are in for some better news, however, as the report deemed them “generally safe” although “not that nutritious.” Ham and sausage also made the low-risk category. However, these three meat choices are most likely to become infected with norovirus, suggesting that improper food handling by restaurant workers may be the culprit. In other words, sick restaurant workers who don’t wash their hands can pass on bacteria to the meat they’re preparing.”

The report includes some helpful tips on food preparation to avoid contamination and illness:

1) Eat or throw away deli meat within three days of opening, whether it’s prepackaged or ordered at the deli.

2) Wear disposable plastic gloves when handling raw meat. Wash hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds.

3) Barbecue should be eaten within two hours—one hour if it’s more than 90 degrees outside.

4) Never rinse raw meat. Bacteria can spread to the sink and other kitchen surfaces.

5) Steaks and roasts should be cooked so that the thickest part of the meat reads 160 degrees.

The full report is available at the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s website.