Diet, nutrition and the context
of risk, part 2 – Food Poisoning
Other than the morbidity and mortality linked to eating too much food,
“all natural” organisms that contaminate our food cause more
illness, more hospitalizations and more death than food contaminated by
heavy metals, plastics, preservatives, artificial colors, emsulfiers,
artificial sweeteners and pesticides combined. In fact, the numbers are
staggering (see table 1) and yet, for some reason, food poisoning does
not seem to resonate compared to more innocuous or esoteric threats. For
example, when I lecture on the topic, the possibility that GMO crops might
cause widespread illness someday (it hasn’t yet) generates much
more passion than the widespread illness that is caused every year by
contaminated food. After reading quite a bit about it, I believe part
of the problem is that many people don’t recognize food poisoning
when they have it, since the CDC estimates one of every six Americans
contracts it every year. In other words, people know they’re sick
when symptoms such as an upset stomach, abdominal cramps, nausea, diarrhea
and vomiting are present. The problem is that they call it the stomach
flu or the 24 hour flu — two ailments that technically don’t
exist (see insert) -- when in fact they probably have food poisoning.
The Stomach Flu and the 24 Hour Flu are not the Flu. The Influenza virus
family causes the Flu, which is a contagious disease that affects the
upper respiratory system. What is referred to as the stomach flu or the
24 hour flu is not the flu, nor is it caused by the influenza virus. It
is gastroenteritis (irritation of the GI tract that causes abdominal pain,
nausea, vomiting and diarrhea). See tables 2 & 3 for the causes.
Stats & Facts
More than 200 known diseases are transmitted through food. 
Norovirus is the leading cause of illness and outbreaks from contaminated
food in the United States. 
Salmonella is the second leading cause of food poisoning. There are almost
7000 serotyped Salmonella isolates 
Long term effects from food poisoning include kidney disease from E.Coli
and arthritis is possible from Salmonella among others. 
Campylobacter infection causes over a third of Guillain-Barré syndrome
Most people don’t realize they have food poisoning because most
do not get sick enough to have the laboratory tests required to confirm
an organism caused their illness. For example, for every 1 case of Salmonella
illness that is confirmed in the laboratory, there are ~ 30 cases of Salmonella
illnesses that were not confirmed. 
An Arizona Department of Health Services epidemiologist shed light on
why food poisoning is so tricky to diagnose. 
- Most of the time, the last thing you ate wasn’t what made you
- Many foodborne diseases don’t produce the toxins until after they
are in your intestines and once the process begins, it can take days to
weeks for levels to increase enough to cause problems.
- The same pathogen can affect different people differently.
- Sometimes only one person gets sick after eating a shared meal that
- A persons current immune status & stress level plays a role in who
can stop a bug and who cannot.
- Good fortune can dictate who misses a pocket of high infestation when
sharing a common source such as an appetizer.
6. Kellis, M. Dispelling 5 myths about food poisoning. The Desert News.
916 E. Imperial Hwy.
Brea, CA. 92821
Fax: (714) 990-1917
Copyright 2016, G. Douglas Andersen,
DC, DACBSP, CCN, 916 E. Imperial Hwy, Brea, CA 92821, (714) 990-0824
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