Gamez: The scariest movie now is about a hidden killer, the food we eat

Aug 25, 2023, 6:04 PM | Updated: 8:34 pm

food killer...

SAN RAFAEL, CA - SEPTEMBER 15: A store worker removes bags of salad mix containing fresh spinach September 15, 2006 at United Market in San Rafael, California. The source of an E. coli outbreak linked to bagged fresh spinach that spread to 20 states, sickening 90 people was identified by the FDA as distributor Natural Selection Foods/Earthbound Farm based in San Juan Bautista, California, according to media reports. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The scariest film out right now is on Netflix. It’s not “Talk To Me,” nor does it have anything to do with Michael Meyers or Freddie Krueger. Instead, it’s about the food we eat, and its a must-watch.

“Poisoned” highlights food-borne illnesses like E. coli, Salmonella and Listeria bacteria and how deadly food can be if not handled with care.

After watching it, I reached out to Bill Marler, the nation’s leading foodborne illness attorney who happens to live in Washington, and he broke it down for us.

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“The (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) statistics are pretty alarming. Forty-eight million Americans get sick every year with a foodborne illness, but 125,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die,” Marler said. “About 34 million of the 48 million are norovirus, the ones you hear about on cruise ships. It’s really very easily transmitted.

“Sometimes it’s hard to know whether or not you picked it up at the restaurant from the food you ate or whether or not it was in a worker or someone else who came to the restaurant who was sick, it’s very difficult to track those down,” Marler continued. “The bugs that I sort of deal with a lot are salmonella, Listeria, E. coli, and Campylobacter.”

Last week, three people died after drinking milkshakes linked to a Listeria outbreak at the Tacoma location of the burger chain Frugals.

Another food borne-illness of concern is related to E. coli O157:H7, according to Marler. It’s been showing up a lot in the Salinas Valley, California, where many leafy green vegetables are grown and subsequently shipped across the country.

“I’ve actually been involved in several of the outbreaks that have had that exact same strain, and it’s been sort of popping up, you know, in this area, over the last several seven, eight years,” Marler said.

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So, how does E. coli make it into the food that we eat? Marler explained that the disease comes from cows, whose feces gets mixed into the water supply, which is later used to water crops. But eating contaminated food isn’t the only way to contract the disease.

“There’s even an outbreak up in Utah right now where the people didn’t eat anything, but they swam in a reservoir and probably drank some water from a tap that was not city water,” Marler said. “And now there’s 12 kids with acute kidney failure.”

On Aug. 7, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service issued a public health alert due to concerns that ready-to-eat salads and wraps with meat and poultry may contain contaminated lettuce. The lettuce, which is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), may be contaminated with deer feces.

Dr. Christopher Damman, a gastroenterologist with UW Medicine, said that when comes to safety, it’s not rocket science. It’s as simple as washing your hands, or vegetables and fruits before you eat them — all which will help with added protection against food-borne illnesses.

Damman also mentioned if there’s one thing to watch out for as you enjoy your Labor Day backyard barbecues, it’s potato salad. He added that those prepping and serving the food should make sure the hot foods remain hot, and the cold foods remain cold.

When should I see a doctor for food poisoning?

See a doctor if you have any symptoms that are severe, including:

  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Diarrhea that lasts more than 3 days
  • High fever (temperature over 102°F)
  • Vomiting so often that you cannot keep liquids down
  • Signs of dehydration, which include not urinating (peeing) much, a dry mouth and throat, feeling dizzy when standing up

See your doctor if you are pregnant and have a fever and other flu-like symptoms. Some mild infections can cause problems with pregnancy.

Follow Micki Gamez on Twitter or email her here.

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Gamez: The scariest movie now is about a hidden killer, the food we eat