Food Poisoning: Why Didn't These Guests Get Sick?

Food Poisoning: Why Didn't These Guests Get Sick?

Anjali Prasertong
Aug 12, 2011

Can you imagine serving spoiled food to guests? A writer at Slate served bowls of putrid gumbo at a party — and no one got sick. Intrigued, she took a look at the science behind food poisoning and why the organisms that make our food rot aren't the ones we should be worrying about.

First, we are as shocked as you probably are that the writer, Anastacia Marx de Salcedo, served food she knew was off instead of scrapping the meal and ordering in. That aside, she rightly points out that pathogenic (disease-causing) food-borne bacteria like E. coli, salmonella and campylobacter give no sight, smell or taste clues to their presence.

Spoilage bacteria, on the other hand, are the ones that make the rotten leftovers in the back of the fridge look and smell awful. If ingested, these bacteria will be killed by the high heat of our body temperature, the acidic conditions of our stomach, or our intestinal immune cells, so they are unlikely to make us ill. Pathogenic bacteria are adapted to survive these conditions, which is why they cause the symptoms associated with food poisoning.

As interesting as all of this is, we would still recommend against serving your guests rotten food!

Check it out: Poison Party at Slate

What do you think? Does this make you rethink eating those week-old leftovers?

Related: Sniff Test vs. Expiration Date: Which One to Trust?

(Image: Flickr user Philo Nordlund licensed under Creative Commons)

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