These foods were most likely to make you sick, thanks to a year full of recalls.
It's the end of another year, which means we're smack in the middle of list-making season: we're celebrating 2018 thanks to things like poke bowls, the rise of plant-based proteins, and new information on gut health. But if you feel like home cooks faced more recalls this year than any other in recent memory… well, you'd be right.
At Cooking Light, we worked hard to keep you and your family safe this year, warning readers of important national recalls: but the following list highlights the most deadly and serious among them. Paying attention to national recalls is very important for keeping meals safe in your kitchen—but you may want to keep an eye on this foods in the future, and should add them to the list of foods that are most likely to get you sick.
1. Ground Beef
Between romaine and ground beef, it was a pretty close call for public enemy number one—both items were recalled more than three times this year. 18.6 million pounds of ground beef were recalled in total, leading to over 18 illnesses and one death due to E.coli contamination. There were also more than 200 salmonella-related illnesses, all in a span of four months. While these recalls are now officially over, make sure you have thrown out any meat from your freezer that is more than a few months old.
2. Romaine Lettuce
We first feared romaine lettuce in the spring, due to a mass recall that linked E.coli-tainted lettuce to 200 illnesses and five deaths. Over the summer, however, shoppers were introduced to a lesser-known intestinal parasite, cyclospora, which caused fast-food joints, supermarkets, and convenience stores around the country to throw out more romaine.
Finally, E.coli came back with a vengeance in the fall, causing illnesses in 15 states. Both the Food and Drug Administration, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stepped in and called for literally anyone living in America to throw out any romaine in their possession. Eventually, federal investigators traced the outbreak to the source earlier this month.
What did we learn from these outbreaks? That Americans are demanding that federal safety agencies do better in the future—and that we all enjoy romaine internet memes.
This recall was disconcerting, as warnings were issued months before Thanksgiving—but reissued near the holiday, at a time when nearly every home cook was gearing up to buy a raw whole turkey. While the CDC linked raw turkey to a certain strain of salmonella, which reportedly sickened over 150 people and led to one death, they still allowed Americans to gorge on the perennial favorite—as long as home cooks avoided cross-contamination and stuck to strict cooking procedures.
4. Cake Mix
Duncan Hines recalled their Classic White, Butter Golden, Yellow, and Signature Confetti cake mixes for possible salmonella contamination in November. This was blamed for illnesses in three states (and caused heartbreak in all 50).
5. Burritos...and tacos, and bowls, and, you guessed it, salads!
Chipotle was back in the news this year as approximately 650 people fell ill after eating at a location in Powell, Ohio. Eventually, all of these illnesses were linked to bacteria caused by certain ingredients being kept at the wrong temperatures. Fortunately, there were no other cases, and Chipotle avoided a food-safety disaster as big as the one that occured back in 2016.
Everyone’s favorite condiment devastated home cooks this fall thanks to a massive recall. Achdut Ltd., an Israeli-based tahini producer, issued a voluntary recall for several brands of tahini after a random product sample tested positive for salmonella. Their tahini brands caused five known illnesses in three states. Luckily, the recall wasn't long lived, and people can get back to putting tahini in everything.
Craving a sweet and savory treat? Check out our favorite dessert recipes with tahini:
Several Northeastern states were impacted by a recall of five pistachio varieties linked to Salmonella in October. Four thousand pounds of this healthy snack were called into question after a routine sampling program by a popular manufacturer and distributor. They claimed the affected pistachios came from a “third-party distributor.”
Eggs were recalled in the Southeastern and Midwestern US this fall due to salmonella contamination. Almost 40 salmonella poisoning cases were linked to a cage-free egg producer in Alabama. Those in potentially affected areas had to toss out Gravel Ridge Farm eggs with a “best by” date between July 3 and October 25 of this year.
Prior to the egg recall, there was a frozen chicken recall that also was issued from an Alabama-based producer, who had to recall almost 450,000 of their frozen chicken products. It wasn't due to salmonella-contaminated material, but rather products contaminated with “extraneous materials,” also referred to as “foreign matter.” Honestly, that sounds almost worse than salmonella.
10. Specialty Diet Products
Turns out some of those speciality (and expensive) gluten-free products aren’t as gluten-free as they should be. Many items are marked as “gluten-free,” but companies such as Papa John’s and Van’s Foods were under fire for their products containing traces or more of the protein. In the case of Van’s Foods, more than 1,500 cases of their frozen gluten-free waffles were actually made with wheat flour and contained all the gluten.
On another note, Blue Diamond, a popular almond milk retailer, recalled over 145,000 half-gallon cartons of their vanilla variety for containing actual cow’s milk in 28 states around the country.