Beware: These 10 Foods Pose the Biggest Risk to Consumers, According to Government Data

Salad Recall


Cheapism is editorially independent. We may earn a commission if you buy through links on our site.
Salad Recall

Recall Reports

Consumer Reports has analyzed data from the Centers for Disease Control, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Department of Agriculture to track foodborne disease outbreaks between 2017 and 2022. The report pinpoints the foods that pose the greatest risks to consumers. Cheapism broke the results down further to help consumers make the safest consumption-based choices.

Romaine lettuce leaf

1. Leafy Greens

Bacteria: E. coli and listeria

Deaths: 11

Illnesses: 614

Recalls/Outbreaks: 50

As the deadliest recalled food on this roundup, outbreaks connected to romaine lettuce and bagged salads were likely caused by contaminated water used to irrigate fields in California and Arizona, where most of the lettuce in the U.S. is grown. Shoppers should opt for whole-head lettuce and avoid bagged or boxed leafy greens to lower their risk of consuming potentially contaminated lettuce. Hydroponic and greenhouse-grown lettuce also are seemingly safer alternatives due to the lowered likelihood that they are be exposed to bacteria-producing sources.

Ham and cheese sandwich fixings

2. Deli Meats and Cheeses

Bacteria: Listeria and salmonella 

Deaths: 7

Illnesses: 409

Recalls/Outbreaks: 122

Listeria poses a huge threat according to Consumer Reports, since 90% of people infected with it end up hospitalized, and sandwich-making ingredients pose one of the biggest risks here. This is exacerbated by workplace practices such as slicing machines not being sterilized between each use. If avoiding cold cuts altogether isn't feasible, consumers might be better off purchasing pre-packaged meats or heating products to at least 165°F. 

Raw minced meat

3. Ground Beef

Bacteria: E. coli and salmonella

Deaths: 2

Illnesses: 643

Recalls/Outbreaks: 22

Since E. coli often pops up where animal droppings are, it's no surprise that the bacteria exists in pastures and on feedlots. E. coli can make its way inside the animal itself, too, contaminating beef products. Consumers can do their part to keep the bacteria from spreading by removing the meat from the store packaging and putting it in a different container to store in the refrigerator or freezer. It's also important to keep the surfaces you're preparing meat on separate from those you use to prepare other ingredients and, of course, wash your hands after handling raw meat. 

Red and gold onion

4. Onions

Bacteria: Salmonella

Deaths: 0

Illnesses: 2,167

Recalls/Outbreaks: 13

Contaminated irrigation water is the most likely culprit behind some substantial salmonella-related onion illnesses. Avoid onions that are bruised or damaged and cooking them is always a safe bet to kill off bacteria.

A raw large turkey for thanksgiving day dinner

5. Turkey

Bacteria: Salmonella 

Deaths: 1

Illnesses: 398

Recalls/Outbreaks: 4

The defeathering process can spread salmonella bacteria in poultry preparation. As with any raw meat, wash your hands directly after handling and make sure you cook the meat thoroughly.

Chicken breast isolated. Raw chicken fillet on white background. Poultry raw. Chicken meat with clipping path.
Tim UR/istockphoto

6. Chicken

Bacteria: Salmonella 

Deaths: 2

Illnesses: 190

Recalls/Outbreaks: 4

Chicken is subject to the same defeathering debacle as turkey, plus chickens are often raised in crowded, filthy environments that are essentially bacteria breeding grounds. Remember: Wash your hands, not the chicken. While many home chefs think that washing chicken is the best practice to avoid bacteria, it can actually spread existing salmonella to your sink and anything else in the vicinity. Make sure your chicken is cooked thoroughly, too.

Halved and whole papaya fruits on white background

7. Papayas

Bacteria: Salmonella 

Deaths: 2

Illnesses: 332

Recalls/Outbreaks: 12

Papayas imported from Mexico pose the biggest threat for salmonella contamination since the FDA encounters more difficulty inspecting products from outside the U.S. Avoid pre-cut and packaged fruits and opt for whole papayas without bruises, dents, or other damage.

Two Fresh Peaches

8. Peaches

Bacteria: Salmonella

Deaths: 0

Illnesses: 101

Recalls/Outbreaks: 6

Peach orchards located near animal feedlots can lead to salmonella contamination. Cooking the fruits helps kill off bacteria, but if you're enjoying a fresh peach, just make sure you choose one that's bruise-free and wash it before you eat it. 

Exotic tropical fruits

9. Melons

Bacteria: Salmonella

Deaths: 0

Illnesses: 302

Recalls/Outbreaks: 4

Melon madness via salmonella contamination most commonly ensues when the fruits are cut into cubes or balls and packaged before distributing. Opt for whole fruits instead of pre-packaged varieties to err on the side of caution.

Flour and ears of wheat on a black background. Close-up, bread concept.

10. Flour

Bacteria: E. coli and salmonella 

Deaths: 0

Illnesses: 44

Recalls/Outbreaks: 22

Anything that grows in a field is potentially subject to E. coli and salmonella contamination. We know it's tempting, but as a best practice, don't eat raw cookie or cake batter and wash your hands after using it.