Avoiding Foodborne Illness

Learn how to reduce your risk of foodborne illness from Salmonella, E. coli, and other pathogens.


Every year, on the order of 48 million Americans will get sick from contaminated food, and 3,000 will die from foodborne illness. Consumers shouldn’t bear the sole responsibility for ensuring food safety, which is why CSPI pushes for policies to keep our food free from contaminants. But there are things you can do to minimize your risks.

Outbreaks and Recalls 

The current outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) is much more likely to be spread by person-to-person contact than via food. Read more about food and the coronavirus here.

To stay abreast of the latest outbreaks and recalls, take advantage of some of these resources provided by government agencies.  The Food and Drug Administration monitors recalls of produce and meatless packaged foods, the U.S. Department of Agriculture monitors recalls of meat and poultry, and the Centers for Disease Control monitors outbreaks of foodborne illness on an ongoing basis.

Raw milk 

Avoid raw, unpasteurized milk at all costs (and don’t believe any of the hype about its benefits on the Internet).  Happily, it’s unlikely you’ll find it at the supermarket and it is illegal to ship raw milk across state lines in order to sell it.  Also avoid soft or unpasteurized cheeses—especially if you are pregnant, elderly, or immunocompromised. 


Image from: flickr.com/photos/of_guido/3103519815/

Between April and November each year, about 30 Americans will die after eating raw oysters or other shellfish contaminated with Vibrio vulnificus bacteria.  CSPI recommends that consumers avoid shellfish primarily harvested from the Gulf Coast region, especially during the warmer summer months, or to select oysters that have been processed to kill Vibrio. Read more.

Advice for Pregnant Women

Eating nutritious foods is especially important during pregnancy.  But certain foods are especially susceptible to contamination with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes, which poses particular risks to you and the fetus.  Read more.

Summer’s Safe Grilling Guide

Cookouts: It's not summer without this seasonal staple. But before you fire up the grill with vegetables and meat, follow our guide on cooking up the safest meal possible. Read more.

Risky Meats 

Meat and poultry foods are a significant part of the American diet.  Consumers should know which of their favorite foods carry the greatest risks of contamination.  Chicken and ground beef pose the highest risks while processed foods like chicken nuggets, ham, and sausage, pose lower risks.  Read more.

Riskiest FDA-Regulated Foods

While USDA regulates meat and poultry, the FDA regulates produce, seafood, egg and dairy products, as well as packaged foods.  Leafy greens, eggs, and tuna top this list of the 10 riskiest foods regulated by FDA.  Read more.

Holiday Food Safety Tips 

Image from: flickr.com/photos/inafrenzy/5209107871

Part of the excitement of the holidays are the traditional foods of the season.  Here are some tips for defrosting and cooking a turkey and side dishes, serving your meal, and storing your holiday leftovers.  Read more.

From Supermarket to Leftovers 

Available exclusively from our sister site, NutritionAction.com, this booklet the definitive consumer's guide to avoiding foodborne illness with the latest, science-based advice on how to shop, prep, cook, and store food safely.  It's an aisle-by-aisle tour of what risks lurk in the supermarket and one's kitchen and refrigerator, with a detour at restaurants, and some special life-saving tips for pregnant women, children, and the elderly.  Buy the book.