Chicken may be a healthy source of protein for most people; however, it also causes the most outbreak-associated illnesses of any food, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to a new report published by the CDC, the center closely examined the causes of foodborne disease outbreaks–which happen when at least two people get the same illness from eating a common food–between 2009 and 2015. During this time, more than 5,760 foodborne outbreaks caused 100,939 illnesses, 5,699 hospitalizations, and 145 deaths.
Although fish caused the most disease outbreaks, chicken made the most people sick: 3,114 people became ill because they ate contaminated chicken. Pork and seeded vegetables followed, making 2,670 and 2,572 people sick respectively.
So What’s Wrong with Chicken?
“Chicken is a reservoir for salmonella,” Thomas Gremillion, director of the Food Policy Institute at the Consumer Federation of America, explained to CBS News. “This CDC report shows that government inspectors and industry need to do more to protect consumers from unsafe chicken.”
Salmonella is a type of bacteria that can cause diarrhea, fever, and cramps about 12 to 72 hours after eating food that is contaminated. Aside from poultry, Salmonella can also be found in eggs, cheese, juice, and fruit.
The good news is that you don’t have to give up chicken forever. To help reduce your risk of getting sick from Salmonella, avoid eating undercooked beef or poultry and raw eggs, and use a meat thermometer to cook foods to a safe temperature. You should always wash your hands with soap and water before touching food. Be sure to clean all surfaces that are used to prepare meals. And always avoid using the same utensils for raw and cooked foods.Related: The 10 Dirtiest Foods You’re Eating
If you feel there is a chance you might have a foodborne illness, visit your doctor immediately to determine the severity of your condition. But ultimately, always keep an eye on your food and how it’s handled, especially when dining out.