Foods That Can Make You Sick Or Kill You

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Stinging nettles
> Principal danger: Formic acid, sharp spines

When cooked or dried, stinging nettles – popularly considered a springtime health food in some cultures – are generally considered safe. However, the leaves can cause an allergic reaction on the skin due to their content of formic acid and other substances, and the spines can cut the hands.

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Undercooked chicken
> Principal danger: Bacteria including campylobacter and salmonella

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention estimates that about a million people get sick from eating contaminated poultry every year. Undercooked chicken may contain harmful bacteria, such as salmonella, which can be fatal. To prevent contamination or illness, cook chicken to an internal temperature of 165° F, wash your hands after preparing the meat, and clean any poultry juices from your utensils, plate, or cutting board.

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Undercooked lima beans
> Principal danger: Limarin

Raw lima beans contain linamarin, which turns into cyanide when eaten. But when well-cooked lima beans pose no danger because the heat destroys the cyanide enzymes.

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Undercooked red kidney beans
> Principal danger: Phytohaemagglutinin

Phytohaemagglutinin is found in many raw beans, but its highest concentration comes in kidney beans. A good soak and thorough cooking will remove the toxin and prevent any gastrointestinal symptoms.

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Unpasteurized dairy products
> Principal danger: Listeria, salmonella, E. coli

Whether from a cow, sheep, or goat, unpasteurized milk and other dairy products may be full of Listeria monocytogenes and other bacteria that can cause food poisoning. The heating process called pasteurization – after French chemist and microbiologist Louis Pasteur, who invented it in 1864 – kills the bacteria, making the treated milk safe.

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