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After a nasty bout of food poisoning lasting nearly 5 days (rare I know) my trust levels and appetite for certain foods have dropped considerably however my inquisitiveness kicked in...

...from a data perspective (ignoring allergies) which foodstuffs are almost guaranteed or are actually guaranteed to never induce food poisoning in a human being?

My first thought ran to protein powders mixed with certified-safe tap water.

I assume that all raw meat runs the possibility and all take-away or restaurant meals are discounted as well. I know fruit and vegetables fertilised with human manure in certain countries which potentially rules out fresh fruit and veg.

Are there any foodstuffs guaranteed to be completely safe? Beef jerky perhaps due to the dehydrated nature?

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    A major problem I see here is that cross contamination is one of the most common causes of food poisoning. That is, bacteria or whatever are on Food A, but someone inadvertently transfers it to Food B. Food A may later be fully cooked and now completely safe, but Food B's contamination causes illness. Cross contamination is so often associated with food poisoning that I don't think you could declare any food "completely safe," since it could have come into contact with something that wasn't "completely safe" during preparation, cooking, processing, packaging, etc. – Athanasius Jan 31 '15 at 16:58
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    As with anything in this world, the best answer to this will always be ... nothing. No food stuff, journey, appliance or even air is ever 100% guaranteed to be safe. – Doug Jan 31 '15 at 17:00
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    Also note that one of the best defenses against food poisoning is having a healthy ecosystem of probiotic critters in your GI system. So eating sterile food may inhibit food poisoning in the short term yet make you more susceptible in the long term. – ZSG Feb 1 '15 at 5:42
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    Consider seeing a professional who deals with eating disorders if you're finding an aversion to certain foods for health reasons or an obsession with only eating the very healthiest food is interfering with your daily life. – Yamikuronue Feb 3 '15 at 14:54
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There is almost no food which is guaranteed to be safe. If it has nutritional value for a human, it has nutritional value for many microorganisms too, some of which are human pathogens.

So, out of the FATTOM rule, you can already throw out F: you cannot remove the food. A is also not a good candidate - no food is naturally acidic enough, and while there are foods preserved by acidity, an error in processing can lead to the food being dangerous. Also, there are some bacteria and molds which thrive in quite acidic environments (although few of them are pathogens). Oxygen is even worse, as botulinum is anaerobic and very dangerous. Also, once you open the canned food, it can get contaminated again.

Time and temperature are quite good, but they are no guarantee for no food poisoning. First, processing errors are common. Second, you can't sterilize the food in a normal pot, and the remaining bacteria resume multiplying even before it's cooled off enough to eat. And, if it was contaminated before the cooking, the pathogens can have produced temperature stable toxins before you cooked the food.

Moisture is probably the only factor which can produce completely safe food. Most dehydrated food is not 100% safe. Beef jerky, cured hams, dehydrated fruit, nuts and similar can easily grow toxic mold during improper storage. Depending on how much water was removed in the preservation process and where you live, the kitchen shelf can turn out to be "improper storage". Flours are quite safe too, but you have to cook them, and the cooked product is again not guaranteed to be safe.

The only foods which will be completely safe will be the ones which never had any moisture to begin with, and will remain bactericidal if they acquire some moisture from the air. So sugar (either granulated, or hard candy),salt and pure oil can be declared safe from pathogens, but not from some kind of factory mishap where toxins can have contaminated the sugar and oil. A protein powder may fall in this category, I'm not completely sure how little moisture would be sufficient for a mold to grow on it.

And don't forget that you can infect yourself with digestive tract pathogens by handling the food with contaminated utensils or fingers, even if they don't get the chance to build a colony in the food. You could in principle hold your dining room clean to operation room standards, but people get infections in operation rooms too.

Nutrition is off topic for this site, so I won't discuss the wisdom of eating nothing but sugar, oil, salt and boiled water in order to eat guaranteed pathogen free food. For me personally, the trade off is absolutely not worth it.

  • Very illuminating - thank you. A truly excellent answer. – Venture2099 Jan 31 '15 at 17:16
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Spiritus is a Polish vodka that is 96% alcohol by volume. I should think it is as sterile as it is possible to get.Picture: Spiritus is a Polish vodka that is 98% alcohol by volume. I should think it is as sterile as it is possible to get.

Foods that are very high concentration chemicals are typically poor habitats for bacteria and moulds. Items which are high sugar, high salt, or high alcohol would typically be safe. You probably have pure sugar and salt in the house but other high sugar foods would include honey, syrups, treacle and some jams.

It is possible for these foods to become damp and thus bacteria or mould may grow on the dampness. A jar of jam may develop a damp patch on its surface that is slightly sugary but not too sugary and thus a great habitat for many bugs.

The safest thing I can think of is strong alcohols such as vodka, whiskey, rum, brandy, etc. These all have sufficient alcohol to keep themselves, and anything else they contact, sterile. Even wine and beers are sufficient strong to keep sterile.

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    One could argue that alcohol itself causes food poisoning ;D – Ching Chong Feb 3 '15 at 14:52
  • Unlike salt, though, alcohol has caloric value :) – rackandboneman Feb 7 '16 at 20:07

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