A Blog devoted to progressive politics, environmental issues, LGBT issues, social justice, workers' rights, womens' rights, and, most importantly, Cats.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Health: Keeping The Food Supply Clean

Lauren Neergard, a science writer for AP, reports that a single bout of food-borne illness, such as caused by E. coli, Yersinia enterocolitica, Salmonella enteritidis, the Shigella group of bacteria, or Campylobacter jejuni, can cause a multitude of ailments decades later.
In interviews with The Associated Press, [scientists] attribute high blood pressure [and] kidney damage [and possible] failure striking 10 to 20 years later in people who survived severe E. coli infection as children, arthritis after a bout of salmonella or shigella, and a mysterious paralysis that can attack people who just had mild symptoms of campylobacter.

"Folks often assume once you're over the acute illness, that's it, you're back to normal and that's the end of it," said Dr. Robert Tauxe of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The long-term consequences are "an important but relatively poorly documented, poorly studied area of foodborne illness."
Some 76 million food poisonings occur each year in the United States. However, because no one tracks the occurrence of ailments that might result from food-borne illnesses, it is not possible to speculate how many people suffer these illnesses or symptoms in later years.

This should give us all pause for thought. More than 30 million pounds of ground beef were recalled last year for contamination.

Donna Rosenbaum, of the consumer advocacy group STOP (Safe Tables Our Priority) says that her group hears regularly from people with health complaints that they suspect or have been told are related to food poisoning years earlier. She cites a woman who survived severe E. coli at 8 and had her colon removed in her 20s. Some develop diabetes after food poisoning inflames the pancreas.

In response to this widespread yet poorly tracked problem, STOP is creating a national registry of food-poisoning survivors with long-term health problems. Hopefully, their medical histories will provide scientists with useful information and spur much-needed research.

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), foodborne illnesses cause 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths a year. However, the CDC does not track health issues of survivors of food-borne illnesses.

The University of Utah, which has tracked children with E. coli for years, has found that some 10 percent of E. coli sufferers develop a life-threatening complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS, where their kidneys and other organs fail.

Dr. Andrew Pavia, the university's pediatric infectious diseases chief, states that one or two decades after a bout of E. coli, between 30 and 50 percent of HUS survivors will have kidney-related problem, including high blood pressure.

Although he stressed that not everyone who has had a bout of food-borne illness will have complications, and one-third to one-half of roughly ten per cent is really not that many, we'll bet that those words will not console the unlucky.

Essentially, he's saying if E. coli didn't damage your kidneys the first time around, you're not going to have kidney-related problems later. Great. We didn't even know that E. coli could damage the kidneys.

What about the other food-borne illnesses? After all, although the ground beef recalls were enormous and apparently all caused by discovery of E. coli bacteria, there are people who avoid eating red meat, or ground beef. What are their odds?

If you cook or eat poultry, you could be exposed to campylobacter. The CDC tells us that Campylobacter jejuni is
"the most commonly reported bacterial cause of foodborne infection in the United States."
One-tenth of one per cent of others JUST LIKE YOU will get Guillain-Barré syndrome about a month afterwards. In Guillain-Barré, your immune system attacks your nervous system, and the resulting paralysis will put you on a ventilator for assistance with the simple human task of breathing. Oh, yeah, and that could happen even if it was a relatively mild food-poisoning. You could also end up getting reactive arthritis. Reactive arthritis, unlike your regular flavour, includes conjunctivitis and possibly simultaneous inflammation in other organs such as the mouth, skin, kidneys, heart, and lungs, as well as your joints. It can lead to chronic arthritis.

In a cheery aside, the CDC goes on to inform us that
" ... an increasing proportion of human infections caused by C. jejuni are resistant to antimicrobial therapy. Mishandling of raw poultry and consumption of undercooked poultry are the major risk factors for human campylobacteriosis."
Reactive arthritis may also affect you six months or more after you experience a bout of salmonella, shigellosis, or yersiniosis. Fortunately for you (and the inhabitants of Casa de Los Gatos), yersiniosis is far more common abroad than in the U.S. No figures were given on how many of us can expect a more intimate relationship with these various bacteria; however, the same advice was given for all - wash your hands thoroughly. So this is Montezuma's revenge?

Severe E. coli can cause blood clots all over the body, which could damage other organs, says Dr. Pavia. HUS apparently can also cause pancreatitis, which might increase your risk of diabetes.

Well, that was exciting morning reading. Now we know why we have to work really hard to tighten controls on the nation's food supply. It's that, or a ghastly disease or diseases requiring hideously expensive medical care. So what if no one gets out alive? We want, at least, to enjoy the goddamned ride.

Incidentally, this entire article seemed like one long admonition for home-cooking and against restaurants. Oh, yeah, and against "rare" poultry. Cook the damn thing till all the fat leaks out of it and the skin caramelizes, dammit. Sheesh.

Caveat: Yersiniosis is spread by undercooked or contaminated pork, especially pork chitlins. Thorough handwashing, as always, and thorough cooking. Sheesh again.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Stumble It!


At 8:50 PM, Blogger Sandy-LA 90034 said...

This is very scary, TPC! I came to the same conclusion you did - home cooking! Damnit!

I think I mentioned awhile back that I need "cooking partners" to help stay focused on food preparation. But even that's an inconsistent thing because peoples' schedules don't always coincide and even if you get into a pattern, everyday life can throw you off track.

I have the greatest of intentions to follow through, but the motivation area of the brain seems to be low on fuel (that's a layman's explanation for this disability).

My solution has been to eat lots of frozen dinners. Those are probably just as bad as anything else.

Thanks for the wonderfully curious brain you have that goes out to collect all these interesting and useful gems from the internet!

At 9:00 PM, Blogger Sandy-LA 90034 said...

P.S. After reading your blog, I clicked over to Ellroon's "Rants from the Rookery" and found this worrisome story about tainted seafood from China sold to California and Hawaii beginning last September:

(Sorry good intentions to learn how to plants links keep getting sidetracked).

If you haven't read her blog, you might find it interesting - like you she seems to find obscure interesting quirky items on the internet. She comments at Atrios' blog Eschaton and I think she even comments at Four Legs' site sometimes.

At 9:06 PM, Blogger Sandy-LA 90034 said...

P.P.S. (sorry!) Somehow I ended up at a link back to a post of ellroon's in May 2007. But she also has another post today about China's food imports.

At 9:38 PM, Blogger ThePoliticalCat said...

Hi, Sandy, always nice to see you. Thanks for the information. In return, I will teach you how to link.

To link to another post, first copy the URL of the post to which you want to link. Then, type angle_bracket_a_href_="
and paste the link (no space after the quote marks); type " again to close the quote, then type angle_bracket. Place the cursor at the end of the word that will be the link and type angle_bracket_slash_a_angle_bracket.
That's (<)(a)(href)(=)(")(URL)(")(>)word(<)(/)(a)(>).
For example: See Ellroon's blog post here.

Does that make sense? Let me know if it helps.

At 9:40 PM, Blogger ThePoliticalCat said...

You know, I just thought of something. If the motivational fuel is low, maybe the trick is to cook superlarge quantities of freezable food each time and freeze it in individual serving sizes. That way, you just microwave it when you're hungry. I'll post some freezable recipes for you, if you like. Let me know.

At 10:28 PM, Blogger Sandy-LA 90034 said...

Hi, again!

Thanks for the tutorial on linking! I've copied and saved it so I can practice.

Also, you're right about cooking in quantities! I've read a lot of books about "Once a Month Cooking" - google "OAMC" and there are also a lot of internet sites with recipes.

I'm hoping to get a couple of friends to come over on Friday evenings after a poetry class we have in the afternoon and try our hand at cooking vegetables, beans and legumes. Also, I've heard beans and legumes freeze well. (I CAN cook, it's just I can't motivate to do it consistently every week).

Any recipes you think might be fairly simple and tasty would be appreciated (we like spices and flavor). I'll make the commitment to cook at least a couple so your work won't be wasted.

Hope your year is starting well and that your work situation has improved or is on the way to improving.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home