The 15 Most Terrifying Food Scares

Ground Beef

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Europe is beginning to recover from the recent E. coli outbreak that claimed at least 30 lives. But it really makes you think. Isn’t Germany supposed to be the paragon of efficiency? If it took the Germans all that time to figure out which bean sprouts were to blame for killing people and sickening more than 3,000 others — the Germans — is anyone safe?

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Listeria, hepatitis A, botulism, E. coli, typhoid, these are some pretty heavy, dangerous things we’re talking about, and they’ve been the culprits behind some scary outbreaks of illnesses through the years. And the sources have often been rather unassuming — products and places that you wouldn’t think of being nefarious. Nestlé Toll House chocolate chip cookie dough, Chi-Chi’s, Taco Bell — you’re talking about the fabric of Middle America.

That’s the scary thing — cross-contamination, careless cooking and cleaning, and misused chemicals — these things can go completely undetected, only to be discovered once someone reports being sick. Even then, it can take a while to track the sources of illness and stop its spread. You can only hope that officials can to act quickly and responsibly, and that improved practices can be put in place to prevent similar outbreaks from happening again.

So where does the German E. coli outbreak fall on a list of some of the most infamous food scares on record?

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This post originally appeared at The Daily Meal

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E. Coli — Nestle Toll House Cookie Dough

In 2009, more than 60 people across 28 states fell ill due to a possible E. coli contamination.

Though Nestlé was not positive it was to blame, the company took extra precautions by recalling its Toll House cookie dough products and issuing a warning against consuming raw cookie dough.

Botulism — Home-Canned Jalapeños

One of the largest outbreaks of botulism in the U.S. took place in Michigan in 1977.

The outbreak was caused by hot sauce made from improperly home-canned jalapeño peppers that was subsequently served by a Mexican restaurant.

None of the people who were infected died, but a total of 59 people fell ill.

Listeria — Deli Meat

Earlier in 2011, Rose & Shore Meat Co. from Vernon, Calif., recalled about 15,900 pounds of deli meat products due to a Listeria monocytogenes contamination.

The issue was discovered after the meat was tested upon the request of a commercial customer of the company that had received a consumer complaint.

E. Coli — Taco Bell

In 2006, there was an outbreak of E. coli in two phases in the United States.

The first outbreak was traced to an Angus cattle ranch that leased land to a spinach grower. The second one was caused by faecal matter which contaminated iceberg lettuce that wound up being served by two fast food chains, Taco John's and Taco Bell.

In the case of Taco Bell, there were more than 120 people in six states that fell ill after eating there. According to the CDC at least three people died from the outbreaks in 2006.

Typhoid — Corned Beef

During 1964, a typhoid epidemic in Scotlandput 500 people in the hospital.

A six-pound can of Argentinian corned beef was the suspected cause of the outbreak, which greatly damaged the tourist industry.

E. Coli — Ground Beef

In late 2008, there were two deaths and 26 other reported cases of illness from eating ground beef that had been contaminated with E. coli.

It was suspected that these cases were related to the 546,000 pounds of recalled ground beef sold by Fairbanks Farms in Asheville, N.Y.

Hoof-and-Mouth — South Korea

In 2008 there was considerable public opposition in South Korea against U.S. beef imports on based on fears of mad cow disease.

But that all changed early in 2011 when South Korea dealt with its most severe outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, an outbreak that lead to an attempt to cull more than 3 million livestock.

The amount of imported American beef and pork has since risen sharply.

E. Coli — Spinach

In 2006, there was an outbreak of E. coli found in bagged fresh spinach traced back to one company in California.

Between the field, packing plant, and store, there are several places where the spinach could have become contaminated.

The outbreak led to three deaths and 199 illnesses.

Hepatitis A — Chi-Chi's Green Onions

America's largest known outbreak of hepatitis A was traced back to Mexican green onions at a Pennsylvanian Chi-Chi's in 2003 where victims probably came into contact with the onions through the salsa or cheese dip.

Three people died and there were more than 600 infections.

Salmonella — Jalapeño Peppers

Between April and June of 2008, there were more than 1,200 reported cases of salmonella in the U.S. in 42 states.

The outbreak was traced back to Mexican jalapeños at a distribution centre in Texas, which was likely the cause for most of the infections

Foot-and-Mouth Outbreak in Europe

In 2001, about 6.5 million sheep, cattle, and pigs in Europe were slaughtered due to widespread foot-and-mouth disease.

While farms recovered pretty quickly, many farmers ended up leaving the industry. Other farmers began to invest in other areas, such as land, in hopes of diversifying their businesses.

E. Coli — Jack In The Box

Beginning in early 1993, Jack In The Box sold undercooked meat that infected more than 450 people throughout the Northwest.

Reports of illnesses soon stopped, but the outbreak led to the destruction of 20,000 pounds of meat, approximately $20 to 30 million in losses, the deaths of three children, and a bad reputation that it has taken years for the chain to overcome.

Melamine — Chinese Milk Formula

In 2008, melamine in Chinese milk formula left four children dead and thousands more in the hospital throughout several Asian countries.

Listeria — Mexican Cheese

Approximately 150 cases of Listeriosis were reported throughout Southern California's Mexican-American community in mid-1985 leading to a total of 62 deaths.

When tested, the contamination was traced back to samples of queso fresco and cotija in Jalisco cheese products.

These foods failed for other reasons...

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