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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