Wednesday, October 11, 2006

A little dab'll do ya in

Foodborne botulism killed Cousin Laura when I was in college and almost 300 others in the USA between 1990 and 2000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Emerging Infectious Diseases. More recently, a deadly strain of E.coli killed several and sickened hundreds across the country. In both cases, reliable sources agree: just a little dab of tainted food'll do ya in.

What's a dangerous dose of E. coli 0157:H7? Here are two estimates.

It only takes 10 to 50 bacteria to get sick -- and 1 million of them fit on the head of a pin.

SOURCE: E. coli Blog - FDA: Don't eat any fresh spinach, Posted at 8:13 AM on September 17, 2006 by E. coli Attorney William Marler of Marler Clark in Seattle, who is representing 25 victims of the recent outbreak in fresh spinach.

Just four pathogenic E.coli cells are enough to cause complications in humans because they redouble their numbers every 20 minutes - in less than 8 hours those four cells can become well over one million cells, and one billion of these cells can dance on the head of a pin.

SOURCE: Letter from Rainer Mueller of Eric's ECHO - The E.coli Help Organization (which offers a wealth of information).

What does this dangerous strain of E.coli do to you?

E. coli O157:H7 is a highly dangerous pathogen that can cause intestinal hemorrhaging, severe dehydration and hemolytic uremic syndrome, any of which can cause serious illness or death.

SOURCE: Your Legal Information - FDA Warning: E. coli and Fresh Spinach - Lawyer

Foodborne botulism is scary, too. As the CDC explains in Facts About Botulism:

Foodborne botulism occurs when a person ingests pre-formed toxin that leads to illness within a few hours to days. Foodborne botulism is a public health emergency because the contaminated food may still be available to other persons besides the patient.

With foodborne botulism, symptoms begin within 6 hours to 2 weeks (most commonly between 12 and 36 hours) after eating food that contains the toxin. Symptoms of botulism include double vision, blurred vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, dry mouth, and muscle weakness that moves down the body, always affecting the shoulderskeep descends first, then the upper arms, lower arms, thighs, calves, etc. Paralysis of breathing muscles can cause a person to stop breathing and die, unless assistance with breathing (mechanical ventilation) is provided.

Botulism is not spread from one person to another. Foodborne botulism can occur in all age groups.

I no longer play with my food. To my parents' chagrin, I enjoy "risky" pursuits like scuba diving, sailing and skiing because I've been trained to handle most contingencies, even if my equipment fails. In contrast, I have no appetite for dangerous pursuits whose outcomes I can't control. Call me overly cautious, but I can't stomach skydiving, bungee jumping or eating foods that could carry active E.coli or botulism.

Not everyone is as cautious. I noticed many patrons eating fresh salads, cole slaw and other fresh veggies in the restaurant where yesterday's Lisa Tolliver Show guests and I lunched. I, on the other hand, left my produce on the table with the tip.

Watch What You Eat! As Fire Captain Bobby Benz, WEVR-MRC Manager Marianne Partridge and I shared on air, this year's National Fire Safety Week theme is "Watch What You Heat: Prevent Cooking Fires." I've adapted that motto for dining.

What original little dab'll do ya? Brylcreem, of course! Here are lyrics to the Brylcreem commercial:

Brylcreem brylcreem brylcreem!

Brylcreem - a little dab'll do ya

Brylcreem - you look so debonair

Brylcreem - the girls will all pursue ya …

They love to get their fingers in your hair!

"Brylcreem Makes Men's Hair Look Neat" [aka: "Brylcream Jingle"] words & music by John P. Atherton; (c) by Atherton & Currier, Inc. Nov. 8, 1949; Eu 184 363.

Listen to the jingle and read the ad slicks at