Foods which are likely to cause food poisoning

Food poisoning is caused by the consumption of food which has been contaminated by bacteria or other similar toxins. However, there are certain foods which carry a greater risk for food poisoning than others.

These foods include:

  • Poultry, e.g. chicken
  • Eggs
  • Red meat
  • Pork
  • Cooked rice/pasta
  • Coleslaw
  • Unpasteurised milk
  • Shellfish
  • Unwashed fruit and vegetables

Other groups include ready-to-cook foods such as those found in chiller cabinets in supermarkets. These include pre-packaged sandwiches, cooked meats (e.g. salami), pates and soft cheeses such as Brie.

A major risk with this group of foods is listeria: this type of bacteria is found within these foods and is especially risky to pregnant women, babies and people with a weakened immune system.

Listeria is discussed further in our bacterial food poisoning section.


Chicken is one of the worst offenders for food poisoning. Undercooked chicken or chicken which has been washed before cooking is known to cause several types of food poisoning, for example campylobacter poisoning.

Find out more in our chicken food poisoning section.


Eggs or foods which contain raw eggs are a high risk for salmonella food poisoning. In order to prevent this from happening, make sure that both the yolk and white of the egg is cooked properly.

Some batches of eggs contain the salmonella bacteria which can be easily spread to a range of surfaces, e.g. kitchen worktops as well as hands, other foods etc.

Make sure that you wash your hands before and after handling eggs that have been cracked open as well as those that are still in their shells. Do this if you get egg white or yolk onto your hands before touching anything else.

This is discussed in more detail within our bacterial food poisoning section.

Red meat

The main risk with red meat is that of it being undercooked or cooked meat being placed next to raw meat.

A classic example of this is when raw meat is placed above cooked meat within the refrigerator: the juices from the raw meat drip onto the cooked meat which results in cross-contamination and the risk of food poisoning.

Cooking meat on a barbecue is another potential danger area. The meat needs to be thoroughly cooked before eating which means cutting into it to check beforehand. If you are in any doubt then continue to cook it until it is ready.

If you want to know more about the risks of food poisoning then visit our beef food poisoningsection. Plus have a look at our preventing food poisoning section to learn more about ways of protecting yourself against this.


Pork is another high risk food: we tend not to associate pork with food poisoning but eating undercooked pork can lead to a form of this illness known as ‘trichinosis’.

Parasites within this pork enter the digestive system where they infect the gastrointestinal tract. This causes symptoms of food poisoning.

This is discussed in more detail in our pork food poisoning section.

Unpasteurised milk

Milk is a good source of calcium for both adults and children but unpasteurised milk can be harmful. This is due to the fact that it has not been heat treated (pasteurisation) and may be harbouring bacteria such as campylobacter.

High risk groups of people, e.g. children, should not drink unpasteurised milk.

If you decide to buy this type of milk then store it in a fridge and consume it before the ‘sell by’ date. Be aware that it has a short shelf life compared to the pasteurised versions.


Shellfish is a broad based term which encompasses a range of seafood such as prawns, shrimps, lobster and crabs. It is possible to eat raw shellfish, for example oysters but these can contain harmful toxins or bacteria which cause food poisoning.

These bacteria or toxins enter the shellfish through the water it inhabits but they can be destroyed via cooking.

Follow any instructions given in regard to preparing, cooking and storing shellfish.

Find out more about this in our fish food poisoning section. Another equally good source is the shellfish toxins section.

Unwashed fruit and vegetables

Fresh fruit and vegetables form an important part of a healthy diet but they do need to be washed before use. This will remove any dirt, bacteria and pesticides and reduce the risk of food poisoning.

One example of food poisoning is that caused by E coli bacteria.

This also applies to fruit and vegetables which can purchased at a local market. These are very fresh (often come straight from the soil) and taste good as well but still need to be washed to remove dirt and bacteria. Plus there is the fact that they have been handled by other people who will have left bacteria and germs behind.

It could be argued that any type of food will cause food poisoning if it is not prepared correctly, cooked at the correct setting or stored at the right temperature within a fridge.

This is correct but there are foods which are more likely to cause food poisoning than others and especially in people who are in a high risk group.

Food Poisoning Guide

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