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Friday, March 12, 2010



If you’ve ever had a food borne illness, you may know how miserable, possibly embarrassing, and commode-confounding it can be. Ignorantly high spikes in cases tend to occur after holidays involving gathering and food. Food sits out for hours on end, bacteria grows and exponentially multiplies, and finally people woof it down. That scrumptious salsa that sat outside all day on the fourth of July becomes a bacterial fiesta in your intestines. Oh, and you’re invited!

But what about a food borne illness less talked-about? A disease which is reported little over a hundred times per year is botulism. Ever wonder why you shouldn’t feed an infant honey? Why should you not buy dented cans of food? The answer is because in rare cases, both can lead to botulism (In theory, eating tainted dirt could give it to you, as well. So long, mud pies!). Botulism can cause nerve damage and paralysis in parts of the face. Severe cases could mean respiratory failure. Death is rare.

No honey for babies. Check.
No dented cans (despite the possible price discount.) Check.
Note: Botulism from cans is very, very rare, but would you really want to be that statistic?

One illness is talked about even less: boxulism. There is no recorded contraction of the illness and the symptoms are unknown. No continuum of case severity exists and no cure has been discovered. The source of this illness is invisible to even the most powerful microscope. Most of us, however, avoid it like the plague.

Let’s say you go to the store for a box of cereal and there are only two boxes left on the shelf of your favorite one. One of the boxes is just fine but the other is crushed in one corner. Which one do you pick? The un-dented one, of course. What’s wrong with the dented box, though? The contents are in flexible packaging within the box and are untainted. So, what if the only box on the shelf was mangled? Would you take it, no questions asked? Or would you seriously consider another choice before committing to the damaged, but preferable brand in front of you?

Ah! A simple question on the surface, but the reality is, we all have an “affinity threshold,” if you will. The risk of Boxulism is only one factor in it. In other words, how much damage does it take to outweigh your love for a certain product? For some die-hard consumers, a box of frozen corn dogs which is water-logged, crushed on one end, heat-discolored, and impaled by spear is still worthy. Flightier food fans, however, flee from even the slightest fandangled-with package. Funny, huh?

Eating honey = good. Feeding honey to babies = bad.
Eating canned food = good. Eating dented canned food = botulism.
Eating boxed food = good. Eating dented boxed food = certain boxulism.
Eating baby-bee honey from a dented can out a damaged box = call 911!

By: S. Cole Garrett 3/10/10


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