foodborne illness

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What people think of as “stomach flu” is typically food poisoning. Hand-washing is critical after handling raw meat and fish, although even washing carefully with bleach and soapy water may not eliminate the threat of Salmonella and Campylobacter from raw chicken. 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. Meat is not only the #1 source of toxin-producing E. Coli, but also contains Neu5Gc, a protein which allows the bacteria to enter human cells more easily. Adding phosphates may increase the amount of pathogenic bacteria in meat. Even placing children in the basket of a shopping cart with raw meat could pose a danger.

Poultry is the #1 cause of food poisoning, and ever since the end of the Clinton administration, the incidence of Salmonella poisoning is on the rise. One study found that nine out of ten packaged chicken are contaminated with fecal matter. Viruses from poultry may even be associated with neurological diseases, and bacteria from poultry have been associated with paralysis (see also here). Extra-intestinal E. coli, found in almost half of all retail poultry samples tested, may cause urinary tract infections.

Pork tapeworms infecting one’s brain is the leading cause of adult-onset epilepsy. 90% of Yersinia, a foodborne illness from pork, may be antibiotic resistant. 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, and a rare form of amnesia from sushi.

Fecal microbes are not just found on animal products: several brands of bottled water and water sprayed on crops have shown bacterial contamination. Salmonella has been found in alfalfa sprouts, so broccoli sprouts are safer. Sea vegetables are an excellent source of iodine, but eating kelp (and sausages containing thyroid glands) can lead to iodine-induced thyrotoxicosis. Eggs cause an eggborne epidemic of Salmonella, sickening more than 100,000 Americans every year.

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