Animal Disease and Human Health Risk
Listeria monocytogenes is a bacteria that can also cause life-threatening disease.
The symptoms of the disease are similar to the flu. Although we are making progress
in decreasing the number of Listeria cases, it still causes hundreds of needless
deaths each year in the United States alone. A 1995 report in the Journal of the
American Medical Association indicated that about 1100 Americans each year are afflicted
with Listeria infection. About 250 of these die of the disease.86 An earlier Center
for Disease Control evaluation of this germ showed a similarly sobering death rate.87
In both reports, over 20 percent of those who developed infection ultimately died from
it. Although Listeria poses particular risk for pregnant women and newborns, only
one-third of the recent cases occurred in such categories. Other individuals at high
risk for this infection are the elderly and those with weakened immune systems from
conditions like cancer, diabetes, or AIDS.
Food categories associated with the highest risk are soft cheeses and undercooked
chicken.88 Other items identified as carrying risk were foods from store deli counters
and "non-reheated hot dogs." The link of Listeria cases with hot dogs and chicken is
stated in Figure 17: Listeria Bacteria in Chicken and Hot Dogs.89
Campylobacter is the leading cause of bacterial food poisoning in the U.S., although it
does not tend to make the headlines. Each year over two million Americans are infected
with this organism and develop symptoms such as abdominal pain, fever, nausea, and vomiting.
In up to 20 percent of cases, the disease can be prolonged and severe. Each year as many as
200 deaths in our country are traced to Campylobacter.90 Campylobacter infection can also
cause Guillain-Barre syndrome, a serious and potentially life-threatening disease.91
Guillain-Barre is a type of rapid paralysis that usually begins in the legs and travels
up the body. It can affect the muscles of breathing, and can thus cause respiratory
death.92 Cases of Guillain-Barre can be triggered by other causes beside Campylobacter.
However, Campylobacter tends to cause a worse paralytic disease that is usually associated
with severe disability even if the person recovers from the acute illness.93
When assessing foods for Campylo-bacter risk, chickens head the list. More than half of
human cases is traced to chicken consumption. As recently as 1990, a University of Wisconsin
study of over 2000 egg-laying hens from three different flocks found that all but eight
birds were infected with this potentially dangerous germ.94 Although the organism is
usually just harbored in the birds' intestines, this is still a problem since most modern
chicken are not killed the way grandmother used to do it (chopping its head off), but are
now killed by automated machines while the chickens go by on conveyer belts. The bodies of
the chicken can be opened by the sharp knives in the killing process and the gut contents
are then spilled into the meat itself. Other foods involved in Campy-lobacter disease
outbreaks include beef, cake icing, raw milk, and eggs.95
86 Tappero JW, Schuchat A, et al. Reduction in the incidence of human listeriosis in the United
States. Effectiveness of prevention efforts? The Listeriosis Study Group. JAMA 1995
87 Update: foodborne listeriosis--United States, 1988-1990. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 1992
Apr 17;41(15):251, 257-258.
88 Update: foodborne listeriosis--United States, 1988-1990. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 1992
Apr 17;41(15):251, 257-258.
89 Schwartz B, Ciesielski CA, et al. Association of sporadic listeriosis with consumption of
uncooked hot dogs and undercooked chicken. Lancet 1988 Oct 1;2(8614):779-782.
90 Craig WJ. Are You Safe at the Plate. In: Nutrition for the Nineties. Eau Claire, MI:
Golden Harvest Books, 1992 p. 267-279.
91 Rees JH, Soudain SE, et al. Campylobacter jejuni infection and Guillain-Barre syndrome. N
Engl J Med 1995 Nov 23;333(21):1374-1379.
92 Haas LF, Sumner AJ. Acute Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyradiculoneuropathies (Landry's or
Guillain-Barre syndrome). In: Kelley WN, DeVitaVT JR, et al, editors. Textbook of Internal
Medicine--2nd edition. Philadelphia, PA: JP. Lippincott Company, 1992 p. 2235-2236.
93 Rees JH, Soudain SE, et al. Campylobacter jejuni infection and Guillain-Barre syndrome.
N Engl J Med 1995 Nov 23;333(21):1374-1379.
94 Jacobson MF, Lefferts LY, Garland AW. Meat, Poultry, and Eggs. In: Safe Food: Eating Wisely
in a Risky World. Venice, CA: Living Planet Press, 1991 p. 91-92.
95 Craig WJ. Are You Safe at the Plate. In: Nutrition for the Nineties. EauClaire, MI: Golden
Harvest Books, 1992 p. 267-279.
Notice of Credit
The article above is compliments of the Uchee Pines Institute, Seale, Alabama, a teaching and
treatment facility devoted to natural remedies. For mor information, call 334-855-4781,e-mail:
firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit their Website:
View Previous Articles