Norovirus Food Poisoning from Pesticides

Norovirus Food Poisoning from Pesticides
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Organic produce may present less of a food safety risk, given the potential contamination of pesticides with fecal pathogens.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Although the most serious causes of food poisoning, like salmonella, come mostly from animal products, for example, most foodborne-related deaths “were attributed to poultry,” millions of Americans are sickened by produce every year, thanks to noroviruses.

Noroviruses can be spread…person-to-person…[via] the fecal-oral route [or] the ingestion of aerosolized vomit…”, which may explain most norovirus food outbreaks. But, a substantial proportion remained unexplained. How else could fecal viruses get on our fruits and veggies? The pesticide industry may be spraying them on. The water that’s used to spray pesticides on crops may just be dredged up from ponds contaminated with fecal pathogens. “The application of pesticides may therefore not only be a chemical hazard, but also a microbiological hazard for public health.”

So, what’s their solution? Add more chemicals. “The inclusion of antiviral substances in reconstituted pesticides may be appropriate to reduce the virological health risk posed by the application of pesticides.” Or, we could just choose organic.

Either way, though, we should always wash all fruits and veggies under running water, as one solution to pollution is dilution.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to tpmartins and Roger Smith via flickr, and the CDC

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Although the most serious causes of food poisoning, like salmonella, come mostly from animal products, for example, most foodborne-related deaths “were attributed to poultry,” millions of Americans are sickened by produce every year, thanks to noroviruses.

Noroviruses can be spread…person-to-person…[via] the fecal-oral route [or] the ingestion of aerosolized vomit…”, which may explain most norovirus food outbreaks. But, a substantial proportion remained unexplained. How else could fecal viruses get on our fruits and veggies? The pesticide industry may be spraying them on. The water that’s used to spray pesticides on crops may just be dredged up from ponds contaminated with fecal pathogens. “The application of pesticides may therefore not only be a chemical hazard, but also a microbiological hazard for public health.”

So, what’s their solution? Add more chemicals. “The inclusion of antiviral substances in reconstituted pesticides may be appropriate to reduce the virological health risk posed by the application of pesticides.” Or, we could just choose organic.

Either way, though, we should always wash all fruits and veggies under running water, as one solution to pollution is dilution.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to tpmartins and Roger Smith via flickr, and the CDC

Doctor's Note

DOCTOR’S NOTE

When you hear of people getting infected with a stomach bug from something like spinach, it’s important to realize that the pathogen didn’t originate from the spinach. Intestinal bugs come from intestines. Greens don’t have guts; plants don’t poop.

So, the salmonella in alfalfa sprout seeds (see Don’t Eat Raw Alfalfa Sprouts) likely came from manure run-off, or contaminated irrigation water. But, this pesticide angle adds a whole new route for fecal pathogens to pollute produce. Broccoli Sprouts are safer, and organic sprouts may, therefore, be safer still.

Organic foods may also be healthier (see Cancer-Fighting Berries), and don’t carry the potential chemical hazards associated with pesticides. See:

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23 responses to “Norovirus Food Poisoning from Pesticides

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  1. Interesting… more problems are caused by chemicals, more chemicals we put in food cycle… industrial logic is different from that of a person… i’m thinking: and if even the viruses became resistant to the antivirus substance?




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  2. Supply and demand – wouldnt it be a fun test if we could get everyone to only buy organic for one month and refuse conventional, pesticide sprayed products (and GMO), what kind of reverberation would that send throughout the food industry? Perhaps I’m just a dreamer . . .




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      1. After looking at many available veggie washes, I settled on a mixture of baking soda and vodka, spray it on the veggies and rub it in. Then rinse in plenty of water. I use the cheapest vodka, for this, and as much baking soda as will dissolve. Here’s how it works: the alcohol in the vodka reduces the bacteria/virus load, and the baking soda reduces the surface tension and washes off the debris and, hopefully, bad stuff. At least it stays slick until you use enough water to wash it off, which makes everyone wash the veggies well. It’s pretty benign, you could ingest a bit of it alone without much effect.




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  3. Organic produce is not immune to fecal contamination. Quite a number of high-profile salmonella breakouts have been from organic sources, even in the more regulated countries of Europe. So…

    Good advice to WASH EVERYTHING!




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  4. Enteric virus contamination is a problem for organic produce, particularly sprouts, too. The main culprit is organic fertilizer (sewage sludge, municipal biosolids like Milorganite).

    As peak phosphorus is a real concern, I expect even conventional agriculture to use a lot more organic fertilizer later this century as a means of recycling and preserving this limited resource. Teach your children to wash their veggies.




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      1. It seems I independently came to the same conclusions as Mark McCarty (that vegan author I mentioned) when it came to the Hazen choline/carnitine/TMAO/IHD studies: plasma TMAO in the general population looks like a coincident marker of meat consumption (and its other associated perils), rather than a primary mediator of IHD.

        McCarty, Mark F. “L-carnitine consumption, its metabolism by intestinal microbiota, and cardiovascular health.” Mayo Clinic Proceedings. Vol. 88. No. 8, 2013.




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        1. In addition to Stan Hazen’s data from his established animal model of atherosclerosis (in which TMAO induces atherogenesis), he also has shown that TMAO spikes to extremely high levels even in long-term vegans. Thus it is somewhat independent of meat consumption and could be driven by its upstream precursors, particularly when they are taken as dosed supplements.




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  5. I’m surprised the good doctor doesn’t know that so-called organic food is sprayed too. Yes, they use pesticides and some of them very toxic (though they adhere to the rather tortured organic code). Perhaps you’re not surprised that perfect looking organic produce is treated abundantly with (different) chemicals. And some organic produce is fertilized with manure, a possible source of pathogens. Unless you grow it yourself, it’s almost certain to have sprayed with something. Every food carries some risk and likely (statistically) your risk of driving to the store is more dangerous than any food-borne, produce pathogen. My 2 cents!




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  6. “Thank you” Dr. Greger for another educational video. In my younger days, I very seldom; if ever, washed my fruits and vegtables. Today however, I wouldn’t dream of eating anything that has not been washed. Don and WE CAN! :-))




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  7. veganically grown vegetables and fruit

    + an adequate ratio of

    organic lavender oil

    [and / or organic oregano oil, organic raw coconut oil, organic tea tree oil, organic lemon juice . . .]

    in ancient waters from protected areas that haven’t been filtered through animal bones, such as ethically sourced from Iceland [Reykjavik Water Works].




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  8. I soak my vegetables in water and a little vinegar, it is supposed to kill many of the pathogens and make it easier to wash of pesticides, I wonder is this was ever proven by a trial.




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  9. Studies suggest that rock ores (and most particularly uranium-pitchblende-) produce algael forms in water, which subsequently co-produce and harbour diseases like e-coli and salmonella. Pitchblende makes depleted uranium which, also creates terrible birth defects in the next generation. Fracking has created some of this problem, as has wanton dumping into the waterways.




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  10. Doc – For some stupid reason I spread an over the counter pesticide on my lawn to take care of the grubs – Sevin. The marking got to me like a good phishing email, even look a the fruit on the bag!! Looks like more of a condiment vs a pesticide. [OK, so I won’t be doing that again.] I began reading all about the active ingredient 2% carbaryl and the negative effects to the non-targeted insects, bees etc. My largest concern isn’t me and this 1 time event, rather my wife who’s 5 weeks pregnant. I’m trying to limit her exposure for the next few weeks while the majority of the active ingredient dissipate. Obviously, some of the dust will migrate into our home via foot traffic and air flow. So how dangerous is something like this to our future baby? Equivalent to my wife eating poor quality inorganic vegetables for a week or a 1000 times worst. There only a few articles out there with mixed findings, as it relates to pregnancy. Plus, it’s hard to understand how much exposure is going on. But given that you read so much associated literature and see patients I was hoping you’d have better perspective. I think this’d be a good topic to delve into as most people in the US aren’t aware of their externalities as it relates to lawn “care.”




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  11. Are you completely unaware that similar volumes of approved pesticides are sprayed onto certified organic crops ? In some instances, due to lower efficacy of these materials, they must be sprayed at a higher frequency [e.g. every 5 days vs every 14 days]. The issue here is the use of non-potable water as the carrier for the sprays.




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