Mad as Hell, and Sick of Being Poisoned

Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria

From the “I Could Have Told You That” file, by way of the Associated Press:

Food Poisoning Can Be Long-Term Problem


WASHINGTON (AP) – It’s a dirty little secret of food poisoning: E. coli and certain other foodborne illnesses can sometimes trigger serious health problems months or years after patients survived that initial bout.

Scientists only now are unraveling a legacy that has largely gone unnoticed.

What they’ve spotted so far is troubling. In interviews with The Associated Press, they described high blood pressure, kidney damage, even full kidney 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.”

Read the full story

I’m glad to see research being done on this topic. My own bout with salmonella (thanks, Chicago airport hotel food) happened in 2004, and I haven’t been the same since. I’ve since been made aware of evidence that suggests that food poisoning and other intestinal trauma can trigger the onset of Crohn’s disease. It took years of pain and illness to find out what was wrong with me. I was told I needed to learn to handle stress better; that I was crazy; that nothing was wrong with me; that I was a malingering employee; and that I was too fat. I was diagnosed and mis-diagnosed with celiac disease, food allergies, and finally Crohn’s. I’m finally getting treatment and learning how to eat in ways that won’t make me ill, and how to handle the pain and disruption that happens when I do have a flare-up. The fact is that the necessary research simply isn’t being done, and people are suffering and dying as a result.

The story profiles a group called STOP (Safe Tables Our Priority), which campaigns for food safety in the US and UK. I don’t see anything on its website about the health registry described in the AP story, but there are some helpful articles and a heartbreaking section honoring those killed by food poisoning. As for the causes of food poisoning, here’s a snippet:

Most foodborne diseases could be prevented by greater industry and regulatory commitment to producing a safe food supply. Every time a case of foodborne illness occurs, it spotlights a gap in the food safety network that has allowed the introduction of potentially deadly pathogens into food. Food producers can and should do more to prevent contamination from happening in the first place, and the government and American families have the right to demand that they do.

Absolutely. Food safety is industry’s responsibility. We hear an awful lot in the media, especially around feast holidays like Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July, about how we consumers have to be responsible, cook that turkey to an internal temperature of 180 degrees, wash all surfaces with bleach, and so on. That’s all well and good, but I’d like to hear a little more about the FDA and USDA forcing factory farms to institute more reasonable safety measures, and then actually enforce them. How about selling food ordinary people can afford that’s been handled properly, carefully refrigerated and served fresh? How about getting meat into consumers’ hands a day or two after it’s killed, instead of using gas and irradiation to make it look fresh?

But wait, that would mean meat couldn’t be trucked across the country for days. It’d have to come from local sources. And taking care with safety practices might mean having to reduce the size of the industry. It’d probably also mean less ultra-processed meat food product, and more actual meat. Which would probably mean we couldn’t all eat meat three meals a day. Why, we’d have to treat meat with respect, as though it comes from living creatures and is nourishing living creatures. And that would mean massively reduced profits for a multi-billion-dollar industry.

The meat industry knows this; that’s why they produce propaganda, file lawsuits against their critics and lobby ceaselessly against environmental, health, labeling and food safety regulations. If we don’t like the tasteless, inhumane, unsafe products they’re giving us, we’ll have to do the same, and more. We’ll have to demand healthy food, served in safe conditions. We’ll have to be loud and angry about it, and we’ll have to shout with as many voices as we can find– because money buys access, and McDonald’s voice carries a lot further than this little blog does. But even the biggest corporate PR firm can’t silence millions of us.

A careless food industry damaged my intestines and changed my life forever. Maybe something similar has happened to you. Maybe you’re sick of not knowing what you’re eating; maybe you’ve got kids and are trying to keep their bodies safe from the pesticides, bacteria and shit that contaminate our food supply. Maybe you’ve read Schlosser and Nestle and Pollan and want to know: what next?

That’s up to us. A march on Washington? School cafeteria sit-ins? Boycotts? How are we going to fight back?


6 Responses to “Mad as Hell, and Sick of Being Poisoned”

  1. Sorina Says:

    You have a very nice blog, good post and pictures…keep up the good job

  2. Rethinking Meat? Why We Need A Movement « The Real Potato. Says:

    […] interesting. I happen to agree with this line of reasoning– I argued something similar in my last post. But meat is a multi-billion-dollar industry, one that lines the pockets of just about everybody in […]

  3. Connecting News, Commentaries and Blogs at - Says:

    […] foodborne … marler blog – Last Updated – Tuesday January 29  Request a Trackback Mad as Hell, and Sick of Being Poisoned Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria From the “I Could Have Told You That” file, by way […]

  4. Tiara Says:

    Oh wow, that makes so much sense! I had no food issues until 7-8 years ago, after a horribly violent bout of what I thought was the stomach flu, but could have very well been food poisoning. That along with a systemic reaction to latex house paint left me sick for weeks and my digestive system has never been the same since. No one thinks they are connected, so I get the whole “Oh, it’s probably IBS…” comment from doctors.

    2 years ago I moved to New Zealand and found that many fruits and veggies that I react to in the US I can eat from all the little fruit n’ veggie shops that carry local produce. I still react to most grains, corn worst of all, but I think the GMO grain issues in the US contributed to it and to the autoimmune diseases I now live with.

    Food politics fascinate me, I just wish more people would catch on to the role the food we eat plays in our own health, the health of our communities and the planet.
    Kudos to you and your blog!

  5. Jen Says:

    This is a scary article. Who hasn’t been food poisoned at some point? I have had it at least twice and never went to the hospital. I think the first time was trichinosis, enough to turn me vegetarian… that was one good thing. But even vegetarians are not safe, just look at the peanut butter coverup that just happened. And last year hot peppers from Mexico were contaminated with salmonella (how does THAT happen?!) We have a garden and I grow as much as I can, at least I know its fresh and safe.

  6. Ben Courtice Says:

    Right on with the comments re. meat production. I was a vegetarian for a year after the UK Mad Cow (BSE) incident hit the news and I read just how the disease surfaced. I went back to being omnivorous later, due to a growing realisation that the vegetable and fruit industries are hardly any better than the meat industry.

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