NutritionFacts.org

foodborne illness

What people think of as “stomach flu” is typically food poisoning. Hand-washing is critical after handling raw meat and fish. For example, the skin of nine out of ten chickens has been found to be contaminated with fecal matter. C. diff, the superbug associated with pseudomembraneous colitis and toxic megacolon, was found in 42% of U.S. retail meat in one study. The superbug MRSA also affects the U.S. meat supply (see also here). Nearly half of retail meat for sale in the United States was found contaminated with staph in general. Pork tapeworms infecting one’s brain is the leading cause of adult-onset epilepsy.

Extra-intestinal E. coli, found in almost half of all retail poultry samples tested, may cause urinary tract infections. Viruses from poultry may even be associated with neurological diseases, and bacteria from poultry have been associated with paralysis (see also here). The hepatitis E virus is carried in the livers and bloodstreams of pigs and is transmitted through feces and by eating undercooked pork.

There are a number of heat-stable toxins in fish that can cause food poisoning (some of which may even be sexually transmitted). We can get cholera from raw oysters; tapeworms, brainworms, and eyeworms from sushi, and a rare form of amnesia. Even placing children in the basket of a shopping cart with raw meat could pose a danger.

Several brands of bottled water have shown bacterial contamination. Salmonella has been found in alfalfa sprouts; broccoli sprouts are safer. Eggs pose the greatest Salmonella risk, though, sickening more than 100,000 Americans every year. Sea vegetables are an excellent source of iodine, but eating kelp (and sausages containing thyroid glands) can lead to iodine-induced thyrotoxicosis.

See also the related blog posts: E. coli O145 Ban Opposed by Meat Industry, Cantaloupe and Listeria: an estimated 85% of cases are from deli meats, not melons

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Watch videos about foodborne illness

  • Maggot Meat Spray
    Maggot Meat Spray
    Given their inherent resistance to food-poisoning bacteria, maggots can be used to create an antibacterial food additive to increase the safety of the meat supply.
  • Viral Meat Spray
    Viral Meat Spray
    Bacteria-eating viruses (bacteriophages) have been approved as meat additives to reduce the risk of Listeria and Campylobacter found in processed meat and poultry products, but there is a concern...
  • Tongue Worm in Human Eye
    Tongue Worm in Human Eye
    A case report (and video) of the worm-like, bloodsucking parasite Linguatula serrata found in organ meats that can migrate through the intestinal wall, into the bloodstream, and then inside one's...
  • Don’t Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
    Don’t Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
    A profile of the study “Dirty Money: An Investigation into the Hygiene Status of Some of the World’s Currencies as Obtained from Food Outlets.” The level of fecal bacteria contamination on...
  • Handwashing Compliance of Retail Deli Workers
    Handwashing Compliance of Retail Deli Workers
    How often do retail deli workers wash their hands at both independent and chain stores? This is important given the potential for life-threatening blood-borne viruses such as hepatitis C.
  • Red Fish, White Fish; Dark Fish, Atrial Fibrillation
    Red Fish, White Fish; Dark Fish, Atrial Fibrillation
    The consumption of dark fish, such as salmon, swordfish, bluefish, mackerel, and sardines, may increase one's risk of atrial fibrillation, an irregular heart beat rhythm associated with stroke,...
  • A Fine Kettle of Fluoxetine
    A Fine Kettle of Fluoxetine
    Excreted pharmaceutical drugs such as Prozac can end up polluting our waterways and may bioaccumulate in fish flesh.
  • Amnesic Seafood Poisoning
    Amnesic Seafood Poisoning
    There's a rare toxin called domoic acid that can turn up in tuna and other seafood and cause anterograde amnesia, the loss of short-term memory popularized in the movie Memento.
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