Walking down your supermarket aisle, any shopper can be seemingly oblivious about the hidden dangers lurking in your everyday grocery items. Any cross-contaminated food can be harmful and even life-threatening – but the real surprise is common ingredients or products that deliver a powerful punch if not appropriately prepared in line with food safety guidelines.

Some of the world’s deadliest foods can be the most common to purchase – and are probably in your refrigerator right now. Let’s take a look at some unusual suspects that can cause hazards to your health.


Probably one of the most commonly used and versatile vegetables, the humble potato holds a surprisingly dangerous dark side. No shades of grey about it – but watch out for shades of green. Primarily a strategical defence against insects – the potato contains nerve toxins related to nightshades. Both chlorophyll and solanine are present when any green colour, sprouts, stems or leaves arise. This natural defence against insects results in anything from headaches to full-blown paralysis.

Wild mushrooms

Wild mushrooms seem like a great way to amp up your culinary flair and impress your guests, but the wrong kind of mushroom can be fatal. Foraged foods are trending, and wild mushrooms are popular for both home cook enthusiasts and restaurants alike. Make sure you source mushrooms from a reputable supermarket or supplier, or if you purchase these from a farmers’ market, ensure they hold the correct forager’s certification. Wild mushrooms, while delicious – can be extremely toxic. Death Cap mushrooms are in abundance in Victoria with heavy rainfall – and just one single mushroom can result in immediate heart failure.

Raw milk products, cheese and dairy

Dating back to the 1850’s – New York dairy farms were hit with the ‘Swill Mill’ scandal. Raw milk was off-colour and poisonous, and the owners mixed the milk with flour and chalk to sell it as a fresh, pure product. This unsavoury practise breaching basic food safety led to the ultimate deaths of thousands of children in the U.S, who have since banned raw milk products and implemented pasteurisation processes across the states. When raw milk has not been pasteurised, it has not been heated to reduce harmful pathogens. Any foods made with raw milk – such as Camembert and raw milk yoghurt, are exceptionally dangerous to consume.

Hot dogs

Think twice before diving into your next frankfurter. Aside from a slightly questionable meat concoction – the hot dog is held accountable for almost 17% of all choking cases for young children. With food choking causing approximately one childhood death every five days – doctors and health professionals are calling for parents to slice or finely dice hotdogs. While the hot dog itself is not poisonous – the high risk of fatal food asphyxiation definitely makes one think twice before deciding what their next meal will be.


A common and affordable staple and something you generally always find at the back of your pantry – you would think that tuna is an innocent bystander in the list. Globally – with world oceans seeing steadily rising mercury levels – tuna naturally absorbs high levels of metals into their flesh. Mercury toxicity can increase depression, hearing problems, muscle weakness and walking difficulties, and permanent brain damage. Make sure you limit your tuna intake to a low-risk level each week.


A seemingly innocuous vegetable – this underrated ingredient is popular in the winter season, with apple rhubarb pie considered a classic dessert for many old-time bakers. While rhubarb is a favourite for many sweet-tooth dessert lovers – take extreme care when preparing it. Rhubarb leaves are exceptionally toxic and contain oxalic acid, which can cause nausea, eye pain, trouble breathing, kidney stones and heart failure. The takeaway? Get rid of those risky leaves, STAT.


Homoeopathy is on the rise, and natural remedies are trending globally. Elderberries are generally promoted to combat the common cold and flu but are also used in wines, jams, pies and syrups. Elderberries need to be completely ripe and strained before processing. Their leaves and seeds contain fatal levels of cyanide-producing glycoside. Just one cup of incorrectly processed elderberry juice can cause severe nausea and vomiting – any more, and it can lead to seizure, coma and death.

Food safety is vital

When it comes to food handling and food safety – education is key.

On average, 420,000 people die globally as a result of food poisoning every single year. When seemingly harmless ingredients can cause severe illness, paralysis and death – your best defence will always be learning food safety techniques and correct methods of preparing and storing foods.