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The Five Most Dangerous Foods to Eat Posted: March 5th, 2010

By Robert Foreman

Robert Foreman has taught English at the college level for five years, and worked previously as a corporate analyst and as a legal assistant. He is currently a PhD candidate in English, with a nonfiction writing emphasis.

Food provides us with sustenance, and can be a source of great pleasure. However, consuming a food product that is spoiled or contaminated, or one that contains unidentified allergens, can cause sickness and even death.

Agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulate the foods we eat, and when a problem is found, they issue recalls to keep harmful products off our shelves.

Here are the most dangerous foods that we put in our shopping carts, based on the number of recalls in 2008 and 2009.


Peanuts may not have a reputation for harming people, but their ubiquity makes them one of the deadliest foods around.

Peanuts appear in many processed foods, so when some peanuts were found to carry salmonella in 2009, peanuts as well as products containing the ingredient had to be recalled. Food products from trail mix to peanut butter cookies had to go in the garbage.

Cookie Dough

In February 2009, Seattle's Cougar Mountain Baking Co. recalled a number of its cookie dough products because of possible salmonella contamination. This cookie dough recall was not an isolated incident: Later that year, in June 2009, the FDA warned consumers not to eat Nestle Toll House cookie dough because of its link to an outbreak of E. coli, bacteria that can cause cramping, vomiting and diarrhea. In this case alone, 25 people were hospitalized.

Ice Cream

As delicious as ice cream is, it can sometimes prove deadly when it contains ingredients not printed on its label. This is especially the case with ingredients such as wheat and peanuts -- foods that can cause severe allergic reactions or anaphylaxis in some consumers.


Milk causes problems when it leaves a dairy without being pasteurized or homogenized. This was the case in Pennsylvania in April 2008, when untreated milk leaving a Crawford County farm was suspected of containing Listeria monocytogenes -- a bacteria that can be harmful to pregnant women.


Fish can cause many health problems. In June 2009, a product called Boiled Horse Mackerel was contaminated with Clostridium botulinum, a bacteria that causes life-threatening illnesses and, in some cases, even death. Products containing fish, such as fish dips, also have a history of FDA recalls because of potential health risks associated with bacterial contamination.

Other Harmful Foods

The potential harm of everyday foods is not limited to these five products. Many foods that appear on supermarket shelves contain something unsavory: Products like tomato juice, canned mushrooms, and peanut butter all have contaminants like fly eggs, maggots, and rodent hairs. They're not subject to recall -- there are "allowable" amounts of these icky items. They usually appear in amounts small enough to be harmless.

Although regulators aim to keep food safe, you should still safeguard yourself by staying up-to-date on recent food recalls. If you do become ill, health insurance routinely covers treatments related to food poisoning, food allergies, and food-borne illnesses that may result from eating contaminated or mislabeled foods.

Robert Foreman