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December 30, 1988 - Image 47

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-12-30

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.


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Germ Wars

hat would be safer
to eat: chicken or
allyl isothio-
cyanate? Ally' isothiocyanate
might sound toxic, but a
chicken defrosting on the kit-
chen counter is a more likely
health threat.
At room temperature, the
defrosting chicken is the
perfect medium for the
growth of salmonellosis, cam-
pylobacterosis and perfrin-
gens — organisms that cause
food poisoning. Despite the
foreboding name, allyl isothi-
ocyanate is the chemical
compound that gives horse-
radish its kick.
While food additives are
cause for concern among con-
sumers, a different and poten-
tially more serious problem
goes relatively unnoticed.
Every day, Americans are
unnecessarily ingesting mi-
crobes that could cause
gastrointestinal disaster.
Whether attributed to a
"24-hour" virus, or the food
from the cafeteria, it's es-
timated that Americans
contract between 21 and 81
million cases of diarrhea each
year that can be traced to
food-borne organisms, accord-


The way food is handled before
you buy it; the way you shop,
cook, serve and store it — all
affect the health of your family.


Special to the Jewish News

ing to Food and Drug Ad-
ministraion research.
"I suspect that everybody in
the country, at least once a
year, has an episode of food-
borne diarrhea," says Sanford
A. Miller, director of the
FDA's Center for Food Safety
and Applied Nutrition.
Over the last 10.years, out-
breaks of microbiological con-
tamination have been on the
rise. As living organisms, the
potentially dangerous bac-
teria are constantly evolving.
Increasingly, the bacteria are
becoming resistant to antibio-
Government inspection sys-
tems have not kept pace with
technology and growth of the
food industry. The monitoring

of dairy plants and meat and
poultry processing operations
have been criticized as anti-
quated. Seafood is not in-
spected at all.
Public concern about micro-
biological contamination has
been limited. Often, people
are not aware of the real
sources of their illness. In
most healthy adults, symp-
toms of nausea, vomiting,
diarrhea, dizziness and weak-
ness pass in a few hours to a
few days. But for infants, the
elderly, and those with chron-
ic diseases, dehydration and
complications from food poi-
soning can be fatal.
Recent research has linked
food poisoning to the onset of
arthritis or heart problems

and kidney damage in some
individuals. Still others may
be left weak and vulnerable
to other illnesses because of
intestinal damage that blocks
absorption of necessary nutri-
ents. Children are believed to
be particularly susceptible to
this difficulty in digesting
and absorbing food.


The contaminants come in
a number of forms — none of
which are visible to the naked
eye. Reaction occurs to the
organism and/or the toxin it
produces. Among the most
common bacterial reactions
• Salmonellosis — found

in more than 1,700 forms in
raw meats, poultry, fish and
milk. It multiplies rapidly at
room temperature and can be
fatal to infants, the elderly
and those who are infirm.
• Campylobacterosis — a
recently identified bacteria,
similar to salmonellosis, but
resistant to antibiotics.
Chiefly found in raw poultry
and meat and unpasteurized
milk, it causes severe, but
rarely fatal, diarrhea.
• Staphylococcal — found
on humans, staph multiplies
when improperly handled
food is allowed to sit at room
temperature too long. Cook-
ing kills most staph bacteria,
but not its toxin. Most com-
monly found in starchy foods,
meats, poultry and eggs, as
well as potato, egg and meat
salads. Symptoms mimic flu,
lasting 24 to 48 hours.
• Perfringens — generally
found in meat and poultry
and dishes made from them.
It multiplies at room temper-
ature, but is destroyed by
cooking. Symptoms of ab-
dominal pain and diarrhea
are usually mild, but can be
more serious in older or sick-
ly people.



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