"Most foodborne illness is preventable if people follow the right steps," she added. The keys to prevention include hand washing, proper storage and preparation. Clean foods, keep meat and produce separate and cook foods thoroughly, Gould said. Also, keep produce, meats, and eggs refrigerated.
Of more than 700 outbreaks attributed to a single source, 48 percent were traced to food eaten in a restaurant or deli, and 21 percent were caused by food eaten at home.
If you're eating out, Gould suggests checking the restaurant's health inspection score. "Don't eat there if the score is low," she said.
Siegel said much of the contamination occurs at the farm and in processing. Farming practices are to blame in many cases, he said.
Chickens are raised in their own feces, which is the source for most Salmonella, and cattle are fed grain, which makes their stomachs a breeding ground for E. coli, he said.
"If we improve the conditions chickens are raised in, and if we start feeding cows grass instead of grain, much of the initial contamination could be stopped," Siegel said.
For more on foodborne illness, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
SOURCES: L. Hannah Gould, Ph.D., senior epidemiologist, National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Marc Siegel, M.D., associate professor, medicine, NYU Langone Medical Center, New York City; Jan. 25, 2013, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report
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