12/04/2012 02:05 EST | Updated 12/04/2012 03:40 EST

Pathogen Food Risk: 10 Everyday Foods That Can Cause Illness


Your juicy burger may look tasty, but what's actually in it?

This year alone, there have been over 477 food recalls in Canada, including one the biggest ones in Canadian history, a massive country-wide sweep of beef products from Alberta-based XL Foods. XL Foods' recall included over 1,500 items pulled off shelves in every province and 41 states down south, according to the CBC.

But food products go a long way before actually making you sick. Food can be contaminated on farms, in water and even during production through processing, storage and transportation, and pathogens are often to blame. And in some cases, contamination can even occur in restaurants and fast food joints.

These microorganisms, which include bacteria (like E. coli), viruses and parasites, are found in food and can cause illness, according to Health Canada. Consuming contaminated food or drinks can result in flu-like symptoms and nausea, vomiting, bloody stool, diarrhea or fever. There are about 11 million cases of foodborne illness in Canada every year.

Now this is not to imply that one should never eat these foods again, but Health Canada suggests consumers watch out for warnings and recalls to ensure the safety of their food. The agency also lists every warning and recall in Canada by month of occurrence. All of these foods listed below are healthy and delicious, but to be safe, remember to wash fruits and veggies before consumption, cook meat thoroughly and prepare foods on different cutting boards.

So how can you easily figure out what to be on the lookout for? Iotron Industries Canada Inc, a Vancouver-based food safety company, has put together 10 everyday foods and drinks that consumers should be aware of — so watch those plates and stay safe.

LOOK: 10 foods that can make you sick:

Top 10 Foods With Pathogen Risks

Fruits And Nuts:

Fruits and nuts are often consumed in their raw form, which can pose a risk of causing illness, according to Iotron Industries Canada Inc. in Vancouver B.C. Bacteria is usually killed during the cooking process in most foods.

Salad Leaves:

Your favourite salad could carry a high risk of pathogens simply because of easy access points. Contaminated water, for example, could carry illnesses and bacteria.

Cucumbers And Tomatoes:

Both these items carry a risk of food pathogens because of contaminated water or soil.


Beef can be contaminated with E. coli. In September, several stores yanked XL Foods' beef products off shelves. Iotron adds E. coli is often found in the large intestine of cattle.


Unpasteurized milk can cause types of infectious diseases. People with weak immune systems are at a higher risk of getting sick, according to Iotron.


Raw pork or contaminated pork can carry listeria bacteria and may pose a risk to pregnant women.

Fish And Shellfish:

If seawater is contaminated, pathogens can end up in your fish.


This can start right from the farms: Eggs can be contaminated with salmonella, causing food salmonella poisoning and other illnesses.


Iotron adds that even though chickens can live unharmed with bacteria, the pathogens can be harmful when consumed by humans.

Peanut Butter And Granola Bars:

Norovirus is the most common food pathogen found in some multi-ingredient items like granola bars and peanut butter. This is often the result of food handling by industry workers. Always check out Health Canada's list of recalls and warnings to be safe.