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Most Dangerous Summer Foods

Posted in Food Safety on June 28, 2021

During the summer months, the number of food poisoning cases increases quite substantially. Barbecues and outdoor parties are breeding grounds for foodborne illness. Food is left out longer than it should, and certain harmful bacteria function better at high temperatures. Here is a list to keep in mind on the most dangerous summer foods that often lead to foodborne diseases. 


Germs live on the outside peel of melons, and watermelon and cantaloupes have been a common source of Listeria outbreaks. Unlike many other bacteria, Listeria can thrive in cold temperatures, and only heat can kill it. Cutting into a melon can spread the bacteria from the outside peel to the inside, which is why they should first be scrubbed under running water and with a produce brush. 


The color or texture of beef cannot be relied on to indicate doneness. Burgers must be heated until they have an internal temperature of 160°. Undercooked meats pose the risk of contracting a subtype of E.coli bacteria called O157:H7, which can be life-threatening. 


Similar to beef, the color of chicken cannot be relied on to gauge whether chicken is safe to eat. In 2009, “Consumer Reports” found that 66% of chicken it tested was contaminated with either salmonella or campylobacter. Chicken must reach an internal temperature of 165° to prevent food poisoning from these bacteria.

Leafy Greens

Between 1998 and 2008, salad greens caused 262 outbreaks and 8,836 reported cases of foodborne illnesses. This includes lettuce, escarole, endive, spinach, cabbage, kale, arugula, chard, etc. Leafy greens can easily become contaminated from manure or dirty water where they are farmed, from a sick person who prepares a salad without washing their hands, or from cross-contamination, for instance, by chopping greens on the same cutting board used to cut raw meat. Salad greens should be thoroughly washed in a colander or salad spinner before consuming. 

Caesar Dressing

Be wary of homemade Caesar dressing, which traditionally is made with raw eggs. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends cooking eggs thoroughly. Store-bought Caesar dressing is pasteurized and safe for consumption. 


Raw sprouts are a popular topping for salads, soups, burgers, and sandwiches, but they have been linked with food poisoning. Sprouts grow in a humid environment. This moist environment allows bacteria that cause foodborne disease to grow and thrive. Plus, sprouts can become contaminated with animal feces. The bacteria are difficult to remove even if you wash them thoroughly, as the germs can hide in the crevices and cracks of the sprouts.


Oyster bars may be popular in summer, but raw oysters can be contaminated with Vibrio vulnificus bacteria, and consuming it can be life-threatening. The bacteria contaminates oysters that live in warm, coastal waters and is more dangerous to people with compromised immune systems and certain health problems, such as diabetes.

Macaroni Salad

When prepping macaroni salad, the dish can be contaminated with Staphylococcal aureus, a type of bacteria that can be found on skin and hair. S. aureus can make you sick in as little as 30 minutes of consumption or may take up to two weeks. Macaroni salad is also often left out for people to enjoy for quite some time. Food left out for too long can enter into the temperature danger zone, which is between 40° and 140°, in which bacteria grow most rapidly. 

If you or someone you love has been harmed by contaminated by food or water, the The Lange Law Firm, PLLC can help. Contact us today for your free consultation.