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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

How good is your eyesight? Can you see an infective dose?

eye-attachment.jpgI am so tired of the emails from people – mostly people linked to the food industry – who just say, “cook it” or “wash it” and all will be good.

Say, how good is your eyesight?

Definition of Infective dose – the amount that can sicken or kill you or your kid after ingestion.  Say, what’s in your hamburger or turkey burger or that cantaloupe?

raw-hamburger.jpgE. coli O157:H7 and non-O157 Shiga-toxin E. coli infective dose? Unknown, but from a compilation of outbreak data, including the organism’s ability to be passed person-to-person in the day-care setting and nursing homes, the dose may be similar to that of Shigella (as few as 10 organisms).

Salmonella Infective dose? As few as 15-20 cells; depends upon age and health of host, and strain differences among the members of the genus.

cantaloupe_skin.jpgListeria infective dose? L. monocytogenes is unknown but is believed to vary with the strain and susceptibility of the victim. From cases contracted through raw or supposedly pasteurized milk, it is safe to assume that in susceptible persons, fewer than 1,000 total organisms may cause disease

Hepatitis A infective dose? Is unknown but presumably is 10-100 virus particles.

turkey-raw.jpgBotulism infective dose? A very small amount (a few nanograms) of toxin can cause illness.

Campylobacter infective dose? C. jejuni is considered to be small. Human feeding studies suggest that about 400-500 bacteria may cause illness in some individuals, while in others, greater numbers are required.

Thanks to the Bad Bug Book.


And, here is a great site to check the relative size of these “bad Bug.”

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Correct, you can not see them.

  • John Munsell

    Admittedly, we cannot visually perceive invisible bacteria in the low doses required to sicken or kill us. Admittedly, we will never see failsafe RAW meat & poultry without using a kill step such as irradiation or full cooking. Since we all purchase raw meat & poultry to cook it at home, and realizing that many consumers won’t buy irradiated meat, we are back to square one, which is that we will never have guaranteed safe raw meat & poultry.
    Much is said about the need for food safety “From Farm to Fork”. If we were forced to be truthful, we must admit that raw meat & poultry will carry inherent risks until we get the product into our home kitchen, or into a restaurant, or a school/hospital cafeteria. For our own good, we must treat raw meat & poultry as a potential danger, and handle it accordingly.
    At the same time, food manufacturers and processors must do all they can (without irradiation and full cooking) to prevent, eliminate or reduce pathogens to less-than-detectable.
    Even if both sides do all they can to promote food safety, some pathogens will nevertheless still fall through the cracks, and end up on our plate. So, who is responsible when illnesses do occur? I don’t pretend to have an answer for this question, other than to say that the entire food continuum shares responsibility. If a consumer is sickened by consuming salmonella-laced ground turkey, we have two negligent parties: the turkey slaughter plant, and someone in the kitchen who did not fully cook the product. Is this responsibility shared 50/50? Or perhaps 75/25? That is the primary question in my mind.
    However, the very real danger of cross-contamination gets lost in this cross fire. When a consumer opens a package of contaminated ground turkey, and drops of juice fall to the countertop or onto the floor from whence it is then picked up and transferred onto kitchen utensils and into other foods, the potential for foodborne illness is readily apparent. We can all relate historical incidents when we dropped food onto the floor, picked it up and consumed it. I was guilty of such behavior in my younger years, not perceiving the dangers until I was in my 50’s. As newlyweds at Christmas in 1968, we invited friends over for the holiday meal. I was in the kitchen holding & stirring a big bowl of mashed potatoes when the entire bowl fell out of my arms, and went upside down onto the kitchen floor. No one heard it, or saw it, so I picked it up, kept stirring, and the rest is history. No one was sickened. Now, what if one or more of us had been sickened, should the potato grower or processor been held accountable?
    Frequently, there must be a shared liability in foodborne illnesses. Each scenario is unique, denying us the ability to issue universal blanket statements of liability. I am incapable of orchestrating protocol which can successfully answer such questions in all sicknesses. I merely suggest that we maintain open minds when we attempt to determine accountability.
    John Munsell

  • buckeye2001


  • doc raymond

    Ditto. And I have done a few blogs myself criticizing those who hide behind “just cook it”.