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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

  • U.S. Meat Supply Flying at Half Staph
    U.S. Meat Supply Flying at Half Staph
    An investigation finds 47% of U.S. retail meat tested is contaminated with staph (Staphylococcus) bacteria. Turkey appears most likely to harbor contagion.
  • Total Recall
    Total Recall
    Salmonella, the leading cause of food-poisoning related death, can survive most common egg cooking methods including scrambled, over-easy, and sunny-side-up. Cross-contamination onto fingers,...
  • Too Much Iodine Can Be as Bad as Too Little
    Too Much Iodine Can Be as Bad as Too Little
    Excessive intake of kelp (kombu) or thyroid-containing sausages can lead to iodine toxicity.
  • Avoiding Epilepsy Through Diet
    Avoiding Epilepsy Through Diet
    Avoiding pork tapeworm parasites (cysticercosis) is not as easy as just avoiding pork.
  • Pork Tapeworms on the Brain
    Pork Tapeworms on the Brain
    Neurocysticercosis, infection with pork tapeworm larvae brain parasites, is an increasingly serious public health problem in the United States, potentially causing headaches, dizziness, seizures,...
  • Toxic Megacolon Superbug
    Toxic Megacolon Superbug
    Clostridium difficile is another "superbug" found in the U.S. meat supply.
  • Chicken Out of UTIs
    Chicken Out of UTIs
    Half of retail poultry samples were found contaminated with strains of E. coli linked to human urinary tract infections.
  • Fecal Bacteria Survey
    Fecal Bacteria Survey
    How contaminated is the American meat supply with fecal matter?
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