A turkey of a turkey
Bezillions of bugs!
Meat of the matter
Antibiotics in agriculture
Replacing antibiotics in feed?
Freaky food stories -- all true


a Barred Rock chicken


Wash often. Clean hands carry fewer pathogens.


open refrigerator

Foul food moldy bagel

Frightening food
POSTED 20 NOV 1999 Happy Thanksgiving! Now, as you prepare to carve the turkey, allow us to raise one indigestible fact: Seventy-six million Americans were infected by bugs in food last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. About 5,000 people, mainly the young, old, or those with eroded immune systems, didn't survive the experience, and another 325,000 wound up in the hospital.

Think it's just "stomach flu?" Fugheddaboutit. Stomach flu's a figment of a diseased imagination. Instead, the nausea, diarrhea, fevers, aches, and other woes are caused by pathogenic bugs -- mainly bacteria -- in the food you eat. And as we'll see, food poisoning, or, more formally, food-borne illness, is increasingly caused by bacteria that resist antibiotics.

Consumer, protect thyself
There are dozens of ways to prevent food poisoning. At the top of any "safe food" menu we find:

  • Avoid contamination in the first place. (Like, no duh?)

  • Keep food cold enough to prevent pathogen growth.

  • Cook food well enough to kill microbes.

Want to get practical? Then scan this major list of suggestions for eating safely.

You may have observed that food safety experts tell us to wash our hands as we count to 100, or to cook our brats from Milwaukee to Mukwonago. washing hands

How helpful?
Great advice. But unfortunately foul food is served mainly at restaurants: About 80 percent of outbreaks occur outside the home, according to a report in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Public health departments are supposed to patrol those eateries for festering infections, but when the Center for Science in the Public Interest looked at 45 local regulatory agencies in 1996, it found that none was following all 12 recommendations of the Food Code, a set of Food and Drug Administration standards for handling food (see "Dine at Your Own Risk" in the bibliography).

So reach for that gravy boat if you dare. For our part, The Why Files wants to answer some simple questions. Why does food make us sick? And is modern agriculture breeding super-bugs that could become a new menace on the menu?

Want to fill your plate from The Why Files smorgasbord of food you don't want to eat?

  The Why Files There are 1 2 3 4 5 6 pages in this feature.
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