Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Beware of Food Poisoning

Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature - School on Blog
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid (People's School-on-Air)
738 DZRB AM, evening class 8 to 9, with Ms Grace Velasco August 12, 2015

Ethnic Biology There are poisonous plants and animals found in nature. But there are those, which ethnic societies learned to deal with the poison they contain, and having removed it, eat them without any apparent harm. One example is nami (Dioscorea hispida), a relative of ubi and tugui'. Hispidine is the poisonous principle that can be extracted by means of repeated washing. Like doubtful mushrooms, natives use dogs to test the safety of the product. Photo: Amanita – a highly poisonous mushroom
The field of ethnobotany and ethnozoology covers interesting studies on how the natives deal with poisonous plants and animals as food, from snakes and puffer fish (butete) to wild gabi and cassava.

I learned from old folks how they cook cassava to minimize its cyanide content. The tuber is cleaned and cut into pieces, then boiled with the pot cover removed to allow the deadly cyanogas to escape with the steam. By the way storing cassava tuber should be avoided because the cyanide that is concentrated in the bark spreads into the tuber. This is noticeable by the yellowish spots on the tuber. However, this is difficult to notice in the case of the yellow or glutinous varieties of cassava.

The blood of the tangingi is first drained before it is cut and cooked. There are people who are allergic to this kind of fish. The case of my youngest son, Leo Carlo 11, is a classical example of acute allergy to seafood. In the summer of 1998 while my family was vacationing in our hometown, Carlo ate a lot of talakitok eggs. By midnight, four hours after eating, we had to rush him to the hospital. He could hardly breathe, his eyes were virtually shut, and his body was covered with reddish spots. He was immediately given an antihistamine injection. It took him one week to fully recover.

Photos: Favorite Filipino dishes - tahong (green mussel) and talaba (oyster) are carier of the Red Tide plankton. Pyrodinum bahamense compresa, which contains PSP or Paralytic Shellfish Poison
Symptoms of food poisoning from natural toxins appear to have similar patterns, but mortality rates vary depending on the kind and amount of poison. When Red Tide first appeared in the early eighties in Maqueda Bay in Western Samar, there was very little knowledge about PSP (Paralytic Shellfish Poison). This poison accumulates in tahong or green mussel and talaba or oyster without apparent harming them. There were reported deaths due to eating tahong during the red tide season. The affect is on the nerves and muscles, and probably the brain.
Poison in Food (Chemicals and Pathogen)


DDT (from its chemical name, dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane) is one of the most well-known synthetic pesticides.

The other kind of food poisons is man-made or man-induced. The most prevalent are farm chemicals. Modern pesticides are designed to cope up with the increasing resistance of insects and pathogens. As a result their residues on food and in the environment have likewise increased tremendously. This is even worst in the case of systemic pesticides that penetrate into the innermost part of the plant as they are absorbed and carried throughout the plant's body via its sap. Any insect that feeds on the sap is killed. This property is also present in some phosphatic pesticides and chlorinated hydrocarbons.

Among the first chlorinated hydrocarbon is DDT that was introduced in the forties as the final answer to the malaria problem, controlling mosquitoes, which spread the disease. It is true that DDT is highly effective not only against mosquitoes but other insects as well, that its inventor received the Nobel Prize. It was however, discovered years later that DDT has a residue that is both persistent and cumulative, and transferred through the food chain. Thus, from the mosquito, the DDT is passed on to the fish, to animals that feed on the fish, and ultimately to man. In spite of the fact that it has long been banned there are still traces of DDT residues found in many places, showing either its persistence, or its illegal manufacture and distribution - or for both reasons.

DDT was first synthesized in 1874, DDT's insecticidal properties were not discovered until 1939, and it was used with great success in the second half of World War II to control malaria and typhus among civilians and troops. The Swiss chemist Paul Hermann Müller was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1948 "for his discovery of the high efficiency of DDT as a contact poison against several arthropods." After the war, DDT was used as an agricultural insecticide, and soon its production and use skyrocketed.

In 1962, American biologist Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring. The book cataloged the environmental impacts of indiscriminate DDT use in the US and questioned the logic of releasing large amounts of chemicals into the environment without fully understanding their effects on the environment or human health. The book suggested that DDT and other pesticides cause cancer and that their agricultural use was a threat to wildlife, particularly birds. Its publication was a signature event in the birth of the environmental movement. It produced a large public outcry that led to a 1972 ban in the US. DDT was subsequently banned for agricultural use worldwide under the Stockholm Convention, but limited, controversial use in disease vector control continues.

Along with the Endangered Species Act, the US DDT ban is cited by scientists as a major factor in the comeback of the bald eagle, the national bird of the United States, from near-extinction in the contiguous US. (Wikipedia)

Food Poisoning
There was a case of cheese dog poisoning in Rizal. Scores of children, teenagers and adults attending a party were rushed to the nearest clinics and hospitals. Fortunately all of the victims fully recovered.

Cases of typhoid, hepatitis and gastrointestinal diseases have been on the rise because of unsafe water. In Tokyo and nearby cities Escherichia coli, a common gastrointestinal pathogen spread into an epidemic level. It was controlled after banning the suspected source - hamburger.

There is always a cardinal rule in observing food safety, and that is sanitation. Cleanliness speaks of an establishment's image, and has become an important basis in issuing government permits in the operation of food manufacturing plants, hotels and restaurants.

But how clean is clean? The scientist Lister discovered the principle of aseptic cleanliness. Listerine, a mouthwash brand was named after him. Florence Nightingale, the founder of the nursing profession applied Lister's principle in hospital management. But we often exaggerate cleanliness. We use a variety of cleaning agents such as detergents, pesticides, deodorants, air fresheners, and cosmetics.

My father used to warn us in the family, "We are unwittingly introducing into our bodies materials which may be more harmful than the germs we are trying to control." One example is Rub-on mosquito repellant which is carcinogenic.

So with Chlorine, which is added to drinking water and swimming pool. Greenpeace, a vocal environment vanguard organization once raised a "Chlorine Kills" campaign against the excessive use of the chemical. Sodium fluoride mistaken for baking powder or wheat flour is extremely harmful, yet fluoride used in small amount in toothpaste helps keep our teeth strong and healthy.

I remember a story of a boy whose anemic condition had for so long remained a puzzle, until one morning his doctor dropped by, and while having coffee with the family, exclaimed, "Why, I know now why your son is sick!" He observed that the gold lining of the coffee cup was being worn out. The boy, or whoever was using the cup, was slowly being poisoned. The fine gold rim was actually painted with lead as paint medium.

How many of our utensils at home contain harmful metals? Do not cook food with vinegar in aluminum pots. Do not use Antimony- or Cadmium-plated utensils. Remember that plastic containers react with food, specially the acidic ones. The microwave oven is not as safe as the conventional oven. There are scientists who believe that microwave triggers radiation, which may be harmful to the body in the long run. In spite of this warning the use of microwave, because of its convenience, has increased.

Poison in Food (Adulteration)
Here is an outline of food adjuncts and additives, which are reported to be the cause of many ailments and death cases.

1. Seeds of ipil-ipil ground with coffee cause falling hair. It is also a growth retardant due to its mimosin content. Seeds of tuba-tuba (Jatropha curcas) and castor (Ricinus communis) curiously appear edible, and may taste like that of raw peanut. Ingestion even in small amount may cause drastic diarrhea. By the way ricin is many times more deadly than cyanide.     

Castor bean plant and seeds

 2. Poisonous seeds.  The seeds of apple, apricot, cherry, peach, and pear contain cyanide poison.  Fortunately the seeds are stone hard to be absorbed by the body, but pulverized seeds when ingested may probe to be lethal.Almond contains  poison which, fortunately, is destroyed by cooking.   
Potatoes (like tomatoes) contain poison in the stems and leaves – and even in the potato itself if left to turn green (the green is due to a high concentration of the glycoalkaloid poison) By the way, both plants belong to the tobacco family Solanaceae, to which pepper and eggplant are also members.

3. Vetsin or mono-sodium glutamate retards mental and skeletal growth specially in children. Vetsin may cause drowsiness after eating. To some people the effect is palpitation and irritability. Burglars silence dogs with pandesal packed with vetsin. An overdose is fatal to the animal.

MSG is perhaps the most debated food item whether it is safe or not. It is a never ending war in commerce vesus well-being for decades now. Don't be a victim of this war. Don't gamble on your health, happiness and peace of mind. Don't gamble on the future of your children and children's children. There is no assurance that you are going to win, neither insurance if you lose.

Start with your biological indices and clock. You maybe one of the people who experience these reactions to food enhancers? 

 • Headaches
• The feeling of swelling in the face
• Flushing and or sweating
• Rapid fluttering of heartbeats or heart palpitations
• Nausea
• Chest pain
• Shortness of breath
• Numbness, burning or tingling around the mouth area
• Weakness
Remember that toxins build up in the body. Toxins from food enhancers are impediments in normal body physiology, and eating foods containing MSG may build up in your body. So you become addicted to such foods. And you will crave for more. The more you eat, the more you become woverweight, and sedentary. You become obese. Obesity is being irreversibly overweight - for life.

Diabetes cases directly or indirectly related to MSG and other food enhances have doubled in the past 30 years. Obesity in children has skyrocketed! Cases of adrenal gland malfunction, kidney problem, seizures, high blood pressure, stroke and other health problems are no isolated to specific age, occupation and ailment.

Why don't you start detoxyfying the accumulated toxins and enjoy a happier and longer life? So with yourt family and friends. The key to detoxification is to stop taking food from which the toxin comes from. Then follow a regimen with the guidance of your family doctor.

Carefully read product labels at the market. Whenever you see it, avoid the products with MSG in their ingredients. Be familiar with the different trademarks and aliases of MSG, originally Vetsin, now Umami.

At restaurants, ask if they serve dishes containing MSG. Avoid fast foods. Most use MSG in their fries and drinks to enhance the flavor and to get you addicted to their foods.

Triumvirate in addiction: MSG in food, CAFFEINE in Coffee, Tea and Softdrinks, NICOTINE in smoking and drugs.

4. Formalin is used to extend the shelf life of fish. The malpractice is to inject it in large fishes, or mixed it with the ice water for small ones. Formalin is a strong poison. It is used in embalming. Formalin was detected in buko juice, which led to the decline of the once flourishing local industry.

5. Cyanide in vegetables was first detected in Benguet when the farmers discovered that the water coming from mine tailing had insecticide property. It was later traced to cyanide compounds used in the mining industry. Cyanide is a very strong poison. It is used in gas chamber in the US.

6. Nitrate or salitre is the chief preservative and food color used. in tocino, longaniza and corned beef. One can easily detect in the urine by analysis and smell. Salitre is known to be carcinogenic.

Food additives like artificial coloring.
Ice drops are rendered attractive, specially to children, by adding artificial colors

7. Food dyes make food colorful, but be careful. One time I was shocked to discover my urine crimson red. As I prepared to go to the hospital I examined all the food that I had taken that morning. There, innocently wrapped in cellophane, kneaded into balls, as we know sampalok (tamarind) candy is made, was the culprit. I took one candy ball and immersed it in a glass of water and stirred. Like ink the glassful of water turned red like the biblical story of the Nile. Jubos - shoe dye, was used as food dye!

8. Aspartame has taken the place of saccharine, the original diet sugar. There has been a decline in the intake of diet soft drinks in the US due to unexplained side effects, ranging from high blood pressure to allergic reactions. Why is decaffeinated coffee no longer as popular as before? Will fatless fat (Olestra) ever get FDA's nod? This is a kind of fat that will not make us fat.

9. The cheap kind of vinegar is diluted glacial acetic acid, the same kind of acid used in photography and other industrial processing.

Photo: Improper drying, threshing and milling predispose corn to the buildup of Aspergillus flavus fungus which produce aflatoxin. 
10. Cancer-causing aflatoxin is high in peanut butter. It is just being practical to sell the good seeds as whole peanut, while those of inferior quality are ground into butter. And why is cirrhosis of the liver higher in the south than in the rice-eating regions? It is because corn is more predisposed to the aflatoxin fungus than other cereals.

Modern living indeed has many drawbacks. Artificial food, additives and preservatives are common in our food, which we take everyday. ~

Timeline Food Poisoning (PDI August 11, 2015)
Several food-poisoning cases have been reported since the start of the year.  
  •  April 9.  Three persons drank a contaminated beverage in a milk tea shop in Sampaloc, Manila, leaving two persons dead. 
  • June 7.  More than 70 orphaned and homeless beneficiaries from Manila Boystown  Complex in Marikina were hospitalized.  The boys ages 7 to 17 were served hot dogs, hard boiled eggs and rice in an outreach program.
  • July 2. More than 100 elementary school students were hospitaluized in San Carlos City in Pangasinan after chewing a fruit-flavored gum.
  • July 10. Close to 2,000 people, most of them students in the Caraga regioon, complained of sympyoms consistent with food poisoning after eating durian candies,  Initial lab test showed the presence of stapylococcus aureus bacteria.
  • July 16. Nine HS students of Juan Sumulong School QC ended up in the hospital after eating candies sold on the campus by an ambulant vendor. Signs of pesticide poisoning were detected.  
  • July 24. At least 350 students at Real Elementary School in Calamba Laguna fell ill after partaking of cupcakes and ice candy.
  • Aug 3. Pancit Malabon downed more than 40 people in Ligao Albay. 
  • Aug 1-4. At least 24 people consumed food in a restaurant in Angeles City ended up in a hospital. 
  • Aug 11, 2015 news PDI.
  1. 25 students of Batangas State University were brought to the hospital due to food poisoning. 
  2. In Estancia Iloilo at least 74 persons were brought to the hospital while 30 were treated at home after thei complained of dizziness, vomitting and diarrhea. 
  3. A wedding feast in a barangay northeast of Iloilo city turned into an umpleasant reception  when more than 100 people fell ill aftyer partaking of dishes like afritada, arroz a la valenciana amd estofado.  ------------------------------------------
 Acknowledgement: Philippine Daily Inquirer, Wikipedia, Internet pictures

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