Everyone can get sick from eating food contaminated with harmful bacteria or other disease-causing pathogens. But this common situation can develop into a serious illness and even death when it happens to infants, young children, pregnant women and their unborn babies, as well as older adults and those with weakened immune systems.

In fact, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children younger than 15 represent the majority of those who die from contaminated foods such as raw or undercooked meat and tainted dairy products. In addition, unborn children—whose immune systems aren’t fully powered at this time—can be hurt by poisons, such as mercury, when pregnant mothers eat contaminated foods. What’s more, chronic illnesses including diabetes, AIDS and cancer can also weaken a person’s immune system.

Still, with a little effort, everyone, even those at higher risk, can avoid food-related issues. Always properly handle, cook and process foods before you eat them!