The findings are part of statistics compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for a ten year period from 1998-2008. Not all foodborne illnesses can be traced to a single commodity, so the CDC used roughly 4,500 outbreaks from that period that had a known source.
While meats, poultry, and dairy accounted for the highest number of deaths, produce was responsible for the most illnesses, primarily due to outbreaks related to norovirus.
Poultry had 19 percent of all deaths—more than any other commodity—with Listeria and Salmonella poisonings behind the majority of those. The CDC report listed deli meats as showing the highest risk for contacting listeriosis.
Leafy green vegetables were singled out as the single highest source of poisonings, accounting for 22 percent. Dairy commodities ranks second in this category, with 14 percent of the illnesses and 10 percent of the deaths.
Most chemical illnesses (60 percent) were linked to fish, primarily the result of the marine biotoxin ciguatoxin. The chemical is found in coral reef fish and fish from subtropical waters in the Pacific, according to Food Saftey Watch.
More than nine million people are sickened by foodborne illness each year in the United States, which is reason listed by the CDC for prioritizing the commodity sources.