THE LEADING SOURCE OF FOOD POISONING?…it’s not what you think it is!

THE LEADING SOURCE OF FOOD POISONING?’s not what you think it is!

Nausea, upchuck, the pukes, stomach bug, stomach “flu”——call it whatever you want, but when you start to hurl suddenly, there’s one phrase that best describes what you really have:

Food poisoning.

Most people blame food poisoning on the nearest burger. In some cases, that burger might even be the cause——but don’t blame it on the meat patty itself.

Blame the lettuce, onion, and tomato!

The CDC has grudgingly admitted that meats——even the nasty processed hockey pucks that pass for “burgers” these days——aren’t the main source of food poisoning in this country.

And no, it’s not the raw milk that’s (wrongly) become the agency’s Public Enemy No. 1.

It’s vegetables——especially leafy greens, like the lettuce on your burger. They’re more likely to be covered in bacteria than anything else on your plate, including ground meats.

Between 1998 and 2008, leafy greens were responsible for more illnesses than any other food category, according to the CDC. Number two is dairy, but don’t blame raw dairy. Blame pasteurized processed garbage like the mozzarella sticks recalled earlier this year for E. coli contamination.

Of the top five sources of food poisoning, only one is any kind of meat: Poultry ranks at number four, behind fruit and ahead of vine and stalk vegetables.

The rest are supposedly healthy fruits and vegetables——especially greens, like the cryptosporidium responsible for a recent food poisoning outbreak in allegedly pre-washed bagged greens over in the UK.

Yes...pre-washed. But don’t be too surprised——“double” washed or “triple” washed, the greens in bagged salads are essentially sprayed with a mix of water and chemicals that can do little to nothing against cryptosporidium, salmonella, listeria, and other common salad bugs.

Naturally, health officials have some advice for you: cook your vegetables. Naturally, it’s wrong. Heat might kill bacteria. But besides the fact that no one wants to eat a cooked salad, heat is also the fastest way to sap most veggies of both their nutrients and whatever taste they have.

So forget cooking. Eat your veggies raw——but take these three steps to minimize your risk of exposure to any bugs that might be lurking on your lettuce:

First, never buy pre-bagged salads——even the ones that claim to be organic. Tests have consistently found germs on even the pre-washed varieties.

Second, buy organic and buy local. Most nasty germs end up on produce not during growing, farming, or even harvesting, but when they’re sent through the assembly line for processing at Big Ag operations.

Bacteria on one leafy green can spread to other vegetables and remain on the equipment itself, infecting everything that passes through later——which is why vegetable recalls inevitably involve tons of greens sold across the country.

Third, wash your produce when you get home. Give the hard fruits and vegetables a good scrub, then soak everything——especially leafy greens——in 3 percent hydrogen peroxide for 20 minutes.

Rinse, and they’re ready to eat. And no, they won’t taste like peroxide...even if you think that might be an improvement over the taste of spinach.