Some foods are easy to grab from the refrigerator and eat immediately, but others need careful attention to ensure they’re safe. From undercooked meat to raw vegetables, we explore 18 foods that are dangerous if they are not prepared properly:

Raw or Undercooked Meat

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Raw or undercooked meat, particularly poultry and pork, can harbor harmful bacteria like E. coli, Salmonella, and Campylobacter. These bacteria can cause food poisoning symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and cramps. Investing in a meat thermometer will ensure your meat is cooked to the correct temperature. 

Raw or Undercooked Eggs

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Raw eggs can contain Salmonella bacteria, which can cause food poisoning. This is especially important when consuming foods with raw or undercooked eggs, like homemade mayonnaise, hollandaise sauce, or certain desserts.

Raw Sprouts

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While lots of vegetables are safe to eat raw, sprouts can be contaminated with harmful bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella because of the warm, moist conditions as they grow. For this reason, you should always cook your sprouts before eating, which will only take a few minutes. 

Raw Seafood

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The CDC estimated that 48 million Americans suffer from food poisoning each year. Raw or undercooked seafood is one of the main causes of food poisoning as it can harbor parasites and bacteria that can cause foodborne illnesses. Consuming contaminated seafood, you might experience symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, fever, and chills. These symptoms can occur within hours or even days of eating contaminated food.

Unpasteurized Milk and Soft Cheeses

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Unpasteurized milk and soft cheeses from unpasteurized milk can contain harmful bacteria like Listeria, Salmonella, and E. coli. These bacteria can be especially dangerous for pregnant women, young children, and people with weakened immune systems.

Raw or Undercooked Beans and Lentils

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Raw or undercooked beans and lentils can contain lectins, a protein that can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Soaking and cooking beans and lentils properly can help reduce lectin content.

Mushrooms

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There are many varieties of wild mushrooms, and some can be poisonous if mistaken for edible types. It’s important to only consume mushrooms identified by a qualified expert.

Grainy Vegetables

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Improperly washed vegetables can harbor dirt and parasites, especially leafy greens and vegetables with rough surfaces. You should remove the outer leaves of cabbages, scrub the dirt off root vegetables, and thoroughly rinse before you cook.

Rice 

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Uncooked rice can harbor spores of a bacterium called Bacillus cereus. These spores are heat-resistant and can survive even when the rice is cooked. Properly reheating leftover rice is also important, as the danger zone refers to temperatures between 40°F (4°C) and 140°F (60°C), where bacteria can multiply rapidly.

Improperly Reheated Food

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Reheating food improperly can allow bacteria to multiply. It’s important to reheat food to an internal temperature that destroys bacteria, which usually is 165°F for most foods.

Raw Honey

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Raw honey can contain spores of a bacterium called Clostridium botulinum. These rare spores can be particularly dangerous for infants under one year old, so you shouldn’t give them food prepared with honey. 

Stinging Nettles

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Stinging nettles are a nutritious and tasty wild plant, but they must be prepared properly. Despite their name, stinging nettles are actually a nutritious and delicious wild edible plant. Cooking or blanching the nettles deactivates these proteins and neutralizes the stinging properties.

Pufferfish

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Pufferfish, also known as fugu in Japan, is a delicacy, but it is also one of the most dangerous vertebrates in the world. The fish contains a potent neurotoxin called tetrodotoxin. Only specially licensed chefs are qualified to prepare pufferfish, and they undergo years of rigorous training to learn how to dissect and prepare the fish safely.

Potatoes

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Raw potatoes contain solanine and chaconine, which are naturally occurring glycoalkaloids. These can be toxic in high doses, causing symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, and headaches. Peeling and consuming a small amount of raw potato is unlikely to cause harm. However, avoiding raw potatoes altogether is generally best to minimize potential risks.

Blood Clams

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Blood clams live in lower oxygen environments compared to other clam varieties. These conditions can harbor higher levels of harmful bacteria and viruses, such as hepatitis A, typhoid, and dysentery. Choose live or very fresh blood clams whenever possible. Avoid clams with open shells or unpleasant odors.

Rhubarb

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Rhubarb leaves contain high levels of oxalic acid, so the stalks are the only edible part of the rhubarb plant. The stalks contain lower levels of oxalic acid than the leaves and can be safely consumed reasonably when cooked. 

Elderberries

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Raw elderberries contain small amounts of two toxic compounds: lectins and sambunigrin. The good news is that both lectins and sambunigrin are destroyed by heat. Cooking elderberries neutralizes these toxins, making them safe for consumption.

Nutmeg

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Nutmeg contains a compound called myristicin, which can cause hallucinogenic effects in high doses. This is unlikely to happen with the small amounts typically used for seasoning food, but you should not consume too much. 

Delicious Chocolate Kahlua Tart

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This Chocolate Kahlua tart! Not only does it look like it’s right out of a glossy magazine, but it tastes like a million dollars too! 
Get the Recipe: Delcious Chocolate Kahlua Tart

Rustic Pear Galette

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Even for those just starting out in the kitchen, this pear galette offers a straightforward yet stunning dessert option that suits any season. Whip up a treat that’s not just delicious but also ready for its close-up on Instagram.

Get the Recipe: Rustic Pear Galette

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