High-profile cases of illness due to contaminated beef, such as the 1993 Jack in the Box hamburger outbreaks that killed four children, may be one reason why meat is often framed as the primary culprit of food poisoning.
A new report from the Center for Science in the Public Interest found that a number of food poisoning cases are caused by some unexpected foods, including leafy greens, potatoes and ice cream.
The CSPI report focused on foods regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Since the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service is responsible for meat and poultry quality control, high-risk foods such as beef and sliced deli meats were not included in the list.
"These are the riskiest foods that are under the purview of FDA," ABC News Senior Health and Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser said. "Meat products are far riskier than many of these produce products."
In total, 76 million people in the United States get sick and 5,000 people die each year from food-related illnesses.
After reviewing foodborne outbreak data from the CDC where both the pathogen, such as E. coli or salmonella, as well as the food source were known, the CSPI report found that 10 foods regulated by the FDA were responsible for 40 percent of all foodborne outbreaks between 1990 and 2006.
These foods were linked to almost 50,000 illnesses ranging from stomach aches to disability and death.
Researchers noted that the report highlighted the need to update the FDA's safety policies -- as opposed to the USDA's safety policies -- and reduce the number of outbreaks.
"Right now Congress has the opportunity to act decisively on FDA regulations and legislation," said Sarah Klein, lead author of the report from the CSPI. "It could overhaul the way the FDA regulates products."
But the authors pointed out that many cases of illness related to foodborne pathogens often go unreported, meaning the number of outbreaks could be higher than their estimates.
The following is a list of foods compiled by the CSPI as some of the riskiest when it comes to potential contamination.
"No single USDA product has caused as many outbreaks as leafy greens," Klein said.
While this may seem fantastic in light of how the number of meat-related outbreaks far outstrips any other food product, Klein pointed out that in many cases the food source of the outbreak remains unclear. For example, food poisoning following a hamburger lunch could be a result of the meat patty, contaminated lettuce or rancid mayonnaise.
The CSPI reported that leafy greens, including spinach, lettuce and cabbage, were responsible for 363 outbreaks between 1990 and 2006 and caused 13,568 cases of illness.
Bagged spinach contaminated with E. coli raised concerns in 2006 after a number of deaths and illness were reported following consumption, but leafy greens are susceptible to contamination by salmonella as well.
Greens may become contaminated, according to the report, upon contact with animals or manure and through poor handling.
"One contaminated head of lettuce or spinach thrown into a washing tank sees the pathogen in the wash water," Klein said. "And that spreads to an entire day's production of leafy greens."