All posts by Sterileyes

Fat and fatter: our hidden daily intake of antibiotics

Shocked dieter
Diet or no diet, everything is fattening – and you don’t even know you’re eating it

Yes, hidden fat-makers – in pretty well everything we eat.

Good, improving salads. Health-giving fruit. Ordinary everyday meat and two veg.

Not just the fast food pizzas and burgers.

Nobody knows

Hidden because we never even know they’re there. Ask your own doctor and you’ll get a blank look. Antibiotics are only on prescription. Fat chance.

Unfortunately, fat chance is right.

You see, there’s antibiotics in our food from the stuff that makes it grow. Just about any kind of fruit or veg in your supermarket is grown with fertiliser. Even organic food is grown from soil made fertile by rotating crops and using compost, manure and clover.

All natural stuff, right?

Well, yes. Except that just about all natural manure used by farmers comes from herds or flocks of animals that are regularly fed antibiotics. For their health and well-being is the official line – but it’s mostly because it makes them bulk up and grow faster.

And sure, on a modern high intensity factory farm, health is a huge issue. So many animals so close together, they’re impossible to keep clean – large numbers can get ill very quickly. And of course any kind of sickness goes through them like wildfire.

So the rule is, dose ‘em up and keep ‘em dosed.

Big bucks fatter

Meantime these same antibiotics they regularly get in their feedstuff is fattening them up and accelerating their growth. From egg to supermarket chicken roaster in five weeks. From calf to meat counter rump steak in one year instead of four.

Money, money, money.

Alongside the inevitable result that all the manure they produce is laced with antibiotics. The same stuff that fertilises the grass they eat, or the silage – and which used by other farmers to grow grain crops, vegetables and fruit trees.

By law, antibiotics added to feedstuffs are supposed to be withdrawn before getting ready for market, so there are no drugs in any animal’s system when they’re sold.

Zero ADDED, yes.

But those cows and sheep and pigs and chickens are still noshing food grown with antibiotics in the manure. Which is how come you’ll find chlortetracycline in onions and cabbages. Sulfamethazine in lettuce and potatoes.

There’s antibiotics in there anyway. Because plant crops ALSO get regular antibiotics – streptomycin for grain crops, oxytetracycline for fruit – to take care of blight and harmful bacteria.

Plus – you guessed it – to boost growth.

So like it or not – organic or regular – just about everything we eat is dosing us with antibiotics every day – JUST LIKE THE ANIMALS.

They get fat, we get fat

And just like the animals, we’re getting fat too – on account of how we’re animals, just like they are. Some of us kinda chubby, some of us definitely muffin-tops, and some of us with a serious avoirdupois problem. Twenty, thirty years ago, not an issue – today, with nearly 60% of us overweight or obese, it’s an epidemic.

Which means, sooner or later, it’s gonna get you too.

A few uncomfortable facts:

  • We all get a jump start because antibiotics are prescribed to us medically. Give antibiotics to children under two – and by the time they’re five, they’re 15% overweight.
  • Like magic bullets, antibiotics get prescribed for just about everything – from serious to trivial. By the time a teenager reaches sixteen, at least ten courses of antibiotics are likely to have been through their system.
  • Antibiotics kill bacteria – good ones and bad ones. Down in your gut, they’re like an atom bomb exploding through your natural gut bacteria. Your gut recovers, but it’s out of balance – and it never comes back to 100% the way it should be again.
  • Gut bacteria out of balance boost the fat cells in your body – the good kind and the bad kind. The good kind you can exercise off at the gym. The bad kind are there for keeps.
  • Being out of balance boosts ghrelin too – the “hunger hormone” that increases appetite. Think those cravings for gallons of Coke and boxes of doughnuts are the natural you? Your own gut is hyping your brain to pig out on them – the real you has no say.

Different strokes for different folks

If you’re not fat already, you might have a different metabolism – some people are always thin. Much more likely, your balance hasn’t been too badly affected yet – and your daily preferred food choice hasn’t pushed you over the edge.

Come down with a recurring condition that requires antibiotics and it could be another story – amoxicillin for sinusitis, say – repeated every few months because it won’t go away. Hello size 18.

What to do about it?

Watch what you eat, obviously. Indulgence foods and sugary stuff do you no favours.

As Dr Martin Blaser proved in his research with laboratory mice. One test group was given antibiotics and got fat. Another group was given fatty foods and got fat. A third group was given antibiotics AND fatty food and got VERY FAT.

But avoiding antibiotics in your food is not easy, unless you stop eating altogether – hardly a long-term solution.

One way is to grow your own veg – without fertiliser of course. The other is to eat fish, but not the farmed jobs – net-cage salmon are fed quinolones. Stick to the deep sea types – cod, haddock – without the chips though!

Then get off antibiotics – and stay off. Don’t insist on high octane power when you don’t need it – and only agree to antibiotics treatment if there’s no other way.

Which means don’t get ill. If you’re not ill, you don’t need medicine.

Which means avoiding germs. Keeping yourself safe and not looking for trouble.

Hype up your hygiene

Which means hyping up your hygiene. Washing your hands, before and after pretty well everything you do. Because your hands touch everything, including your food – and the sensitive areas round your eyes and mouth – germs favourite way into your body.

You can sterilise your surroundings too, so viruses and bacteria don’t get a look in. Mist up your workplace with a Hypersteriliser and germs are gone.

Don’t grief though if your clothes start feeling tight and you look a bit fuller in the face – it’s happening to all of us. An epidemic like the medics say, but not all your fault.

They won’t like it, but this one’s up to the farmers.

Picture Copyright: nicoletaionescu / 123RF Stock Photo

Originally posted 2016-02-08 16:26:51.

People make themselves sick and it’s YOUR fault

You mean me
Suddenly you’re in trouble – even though you’ve done nothing

Of course it’s your fault, you’re not doing anything.

Nothing for your customers, nothing for your staff.

They’re getting themselves infected and you’re just letting them.

Get ready to be the victim

Which means any minute now, they’re going to clobber you.

Duty of care or some such… you didn’t stop them.

So now they’ve got sick in your place, so of course it must be your fault. Give them a chance and they’ll sue you down to the ground for generations to come.

After all, you let them walk in with unwashed hands and didn’t make a fuss. You didn’t nanny them into using soap and water, giving themselves a good scrub. You just let them sit there at your restaurant table or office desk and carry on regardless.

And how do you know where they might have been?

Clutching handrails on the bus or supermarket trolley. Those grubby railings out in the street. Not forgetting the escalator, or the touchscreen on their phones – all kinds of germs out there, heaving on everything.

Who knows what they might have picked up? E.coli, salmonella, clostridium difficile, campylobacter, the superbug MRSA, flu viruses and norovirus are usual suspects. Any one of which could give them collywobbles, or something more serious.

Germs everywhere

Don’t believe it?

Just ask yourself – out and about, doing things in the city, when was the last time you washed your own hands?

Can’t remember? Neither can most of us – because we don’t think of it. Which means most of the time, our personal hand hygiene is non-existent. Most of us don’t wash our hands at all, so there’s all kinds of bugs crawling on there – including poo from the loo for at least 28% of us.

So check out these people – what are they doing? Tucking into your menu specials? Using a knife and fork, or their fingers?

Oops, there you go, a piece of bread roll straight out of their hand. Bread, butter – and norovirus – down the hatch. It only takes 10 norovirus particles to be infected – and there’s probably several thousand in each mouthful.

Give it 24 hours and the phone’s going to go. Cramps, vomiting and the world’s worst diarrhoea – after eating at your place and they’re calling their lawyers.

And you did nothing.

Nothing to cause them being ill – but nothing to stop them either. So now you’re going to get it.

Guilty because you’re innocent

Same thing if they’re working in your office. Unwashed fingers on the keyboard, then touching themselves round the eyes and mouth. Or eating a sarnie at their desk, just to make sure.

Not at work tomorrow. Sick as a dog and unable to move. But they’re onto the union rep about work-place germs – how dare you run an unhealthy environment!

Your fault again for doing nothing. Not rescuing them from themselves.

So what to do?

You can’t force people to wash their hands. They’ll get offended and give you more grief than you already have. And their sloppy hygiene could cost you plenty.

Not fair, is it? You already provide washrooms and loos – your place is always spic and span. Yet it’s you that gets hit for THEIR negligence.

Time to do something to protect yourself – duty of care – duty of bottom line.

By making hygiene much more assertive.

Because at the moment, it’s just passive, isn’t it? If they don’t wash their hands after the loo, that’s their indaba – but it’s you that gets it in the neck.

Pro-active hygiene

So put a bottle of hand sanitising gel on their desks – or offer them each individually packaged antiseptic wipes.

It’s a courtesy, right? How are they going to refuse you?

And how many are likely to think about suing you if they STILL come down with some bug? You’ve visibly demonstrated you care for their well-being. Yeah they’re still suffering, but more likely to give you the benefit of the doubt.

OK – and you can take it a stage further too. Not just sanitise their hands, but sterilise the whole place – get rid of the residual germs in the air or on surfaces, some of which can survive for up to two weeks or more.

Duty of care – duty of bottom line. Because what is the cost if they sue? Or the down time if they’re not working? The loss of trade? The loss of goodwill? The loss of reputation?

Norovirus alone costs the NHS £100 million a year. Get unlucky and it could put you out of business.

Yeah, look after your people – and protect yourself too – belt and braces.

All it takes is a Hypersteriliser – and around 40 minutes every night, part of your normal cleaning operations.

Press a button and it mists up deserted rooms with ionised hydrogen peroxide – which spreads everywhere through the air and into cracks and crevices, oxidising germs to nothing on the fly.

The result? A Sterility Assurance Level of Log 6 – in non-medic speak, that’s 99.9999% of all viruses and bacteria gone.

No way anything can be your fault after that.

Picture Copyright: atic12 / 123RF Stock Photo

Originally posted 2016-02-05 13:59:38.

First Class or Budget air travel – all viruses fly free

Unhappy flight attendant
Unwanted passengers nobody knows about – a problem we share with the world

Unwanted and unloved – viruses don’t need a boarding pass.

They don’t need a visa either – however exotic their departure point.

They’re used to grabbing freebies – travelling INSIDE your body or ON it.

Everywhere and spreading

On your skin, on your clothes, or dragged aboard in floating microbial aura we all carry round with us. Or simply sucked into the cabin with the rest of the air at the airport. Invisible, out of sight, out of mind.

Which means – take your pick – whatever the latest big scare is, it’s coming here.

Zika, MERS, Ebola, Black Death – they’re all packed and ready – waiting for the next flight out.

Which is also how come a local disease or illness can suddenly become world-wide.

A Boeing 787 carries up to 335 passengers and flies at 560 mph. PLENTY opportunity for a travelling virus to climb aboard – with, or without the mosquito that transmits it.

International emergency

Eight hours, ten – and it’s in a whole new country. Like the overnight celebrity Zika virus – Brazil last week, 23 countries today – declared an international emergency by the US Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organisation both – latest member of the jet-set.

Which kinda means we should be watching our hygiene levels a bit more than usual. Here in the Old Country, we’re not necessarily as safe as we think we are.

Especially as Zika doesn’t really affect most of us. Only 1 in 5 infected people get ill. And even then it’s mild – a rash, joint pains or irritated eyes – a few days and it’s gone.

Not so nice if you’re expecting though. Or for your kids. Microcephaly is with them for life – sometimes OK, mostly not. Not a condition to play games with.

But nor is any virus, yet we do it all the time – take chances with our lives by simply being careless.

The Zika virus may not survive long in the UK – it’s too cold for the mosquitoes that carry it. There’s plenty of others that can though – and bacteria too. And because we’re made of mostly bacteria ourselves, we need to protect against these foreigners getting into our bodies.

The right place, the wrong place

Most viruses and bacteria are passive and benign, they serve many useful purposes as long as they’re in the right place. In the wrong place they can be devastating, deadly if unchecked.

And yet we carry on absently, not thinking that a touch, a minor cut, a mouthful of food, or even our next breath could trigger a whole interior infection that could have us fighting for our lives.

How lax are we? Frighteningly when you consider we’re surrounded by germs all the time, with maybe ten million possibly harmful microbes on each hand right now – e.coli, salmonella, clostridium difficile, campylobacter, MRSA, flu, norovirus – take your pick.

Despite all this:

We don’t do much about our surroundings either. Slop around with detergent and water in the kitchen, a wipe of bleach here and there. Surfaces only – the 80% air space of the room around us never gets touched – even though most microbes are smaller and lighter than dust, smoke, or even the oxygen molecules we breathe.

Billions and billions and billions of them all the time – silently buzzing like a cloud of mosquitoes we can’t see.

Getting our own back

We can clobber them though – and our weapon of choice is far better than any bug spray.

Close the windows and doors, wheel in the Hypersteriliser, press the button and get out of there for half an hour.

Fsst! The place mists up with hydrogen peroxide – ionised so it reaches everywhere, electrostatically grabbing at viruses and bacteria, oxidising them to nothing.

Come back when it’s finished and the whole place is sterile. No Zika, no anything – gone.

Not so easy for your next holiday though. Fly to where these viruses originate and a Hypersteriliser is a bit big to take with you. Better take some mosquito coils, twenty gallons of Autan (the repellent that smells like jet fuel), wash yourself like crazy – and be careful.

And whatever you do, don’t get bitten.

Picture Copyright: bruno135 / 123RF Stock Photo

Originally posted 2016-02-04 15:13:33.

AMR snatches gold from antibiotics – but good old silver always takes silver

Silver cup winner
Second best protection is better than no protection at all

Silver, huh?

Second-best at best. Not even close to antibiotics.

Yeah, but antibiotics are busy going phut.

Too much use, too many expectations, too many chances at getting away with things.

Superbugs are winning

Ask your Doc – AMR – antimicrobial resistance – is the big headache right now. You get injured or seriously ill, what the hell do medics do now?

Because the cupboard is bare – not from running out – from over-use, serious over-use – crikey Moses, agriculture alone round the world uses 65,000 tonnes of the stuff every year.

Mind you, the medical sector is not much better – around a quarter of all antibiotic prescriptions are placebo-type overkill or just plain unnecessary.

No, no, the big problem is that these one-time miracle drugs are beginning not to work any more. The superbugs they’re meant to kill refuse to roll over, dead.

Too smart, see? Immune. Mutated and adapted every generation – which can happen every few minutes – able to resist whatever we throw at them.

Ho, hum, did you feel a breeze just then?

End of the line?

Yeah, an empty cupboard. And no new antibiotics discovered since 1987. No profit in it with a one-off course of three tablets a day for a week. How about one a day, every day for life? THAT’S more like it!

OK, but we’re not dead yet. Antibiotics are still saving lives, still enabling medical experts to do amazing things – brain surgery, organ transplants, joint replacements – right down to C-sections births which are now 1 in 4.

The writing is on the wall though. And the day is fast arriving when our mind-blowing silver bullets run out of fizz. In fact the all-resistant bug – protected by the gene mcr-1 – is already here.

Time to call for back-up. Second best maybe, but better than a poke in the eye with a burnt stick.

Ancient reinforcements

Say hello to silver, an old friend from way back. 400 BC to be exact – and even then it was old hat – when Hippocrates (he of the doctors’ Hippocratic Oath) taught how to use it for healing wounds and controlling disease.

You’re right, silver is not in the same class as modern antibiotics. But it does have antibiotic qualities of its own.

Prolonged exposure to silver seems to clobber most pathogens eventually – slow perhaps, but effective. Which is why the rich would drink from silver cups and eat with silver cutlery. And why wounded soldiers 100 years ago had their sutures sewn with silver thread to reduce infection.

Their dressings were silver too – local application seemed to work better than internal dosing. And still today, you can get waterproof Elastoplast with antiseptic silver in the would pad.

There is even the possibility that silver could boost the performance of our sagging antibiotics – helping to overcome AMR and get some of their mojo back. Tests already show improvements up to 1,000 times better germ-killing power.

Better still, silver is not just antibacterial, it’s antifungal and antiviral as well.  And winners though they still are, antibiotics have never been able to take down viruses.

Thank you, No 2

Second best, yes. But definitely better than nothing.

Put that together with a new awareness of hygiene – necessity will force us to keep ourselves cleaner as the superbugs take over – and our medical future is not so desperate after all.

Given time, it could even get better. Researchers have found that silver interrupts a bacteria cell’s ability to form chemical bonds it needs for survival.

Not unlike what hydrogen peroxide does when misted up in a roomful of pathogens by a Hypersteriliser.

Hmm, no viruses, no bacteria – what’s not to like?

Picture Copyright: feedough / 123RF Stock Photo

Originally posted 2016-02-03 15:10:29.

Giants clash over chicken: Dame Sally vs the FSA

Threatening Heel
Right or wrong – there’s only one way with hygiene

Looks like the FSA is washing its hands of the food poisoning campylobacter issue.

They want to duck the cost of monitoring birds for this naturally-occurring bacteria and shove it onto industry.

Oh woe is us, woe is us, we’re all going to get sick.

Misplaced objectives

Not if proper leak-proof packaging is in use across the industry we won’t. Most birds have this bacteria in their gut – just like we have over 100 trillion bacteria in our own gut. They’re supposed to be there. Take one away and the balance between all of them is disturbed.

In birds’ metabolism, campylobacter is passive and benign. It does them no harm, and occurs in probably two-thirds of all birds farmed in the UK . Far from a scandal – and not “contaminated” as media hysteria would have us believe, these birds are colonised with it naturally. Because its presence may be necessary, like a catalyst for OTHER positive bacteria to do THEIR job.

For instance, campylobacter is closely related to helicobacter pylori – itself once even called “campylobacter”. Research shows helicobacter pylori to be a key cause of ulcers and stomach cancer. But eliminating helicobacter pylori is also linked to an increase in oesophageal disease and asthma.

Swings and roundabouts. Take away one element and you trigger another. Even one that looks hazardous – at first appraisal. So surprise, surprise, as long as it’s not activated, helicobacter pylori in the body may actually be necessary.

And anyway, if two-thirds of all birds in the UK have this dreadful campylobacter, why aren’t two-thirds of us ALWAYS moaning and groaning with stomach cramps and earth-shattering diarrhoea?

Reality check

Because – and maybe the FSA don’t know this – nobody eats raw chicken. And cooking chicken completely eliminates campylobacter. The whole KFC fast-food franchise succeeds because of it. So do a lot of Sunday lunches, kids lunch boxes – and let’s face it – household budgets. Chicken is probably our No 1 food staple.

Uh huh. But the FSA actually DO have a point about chicken being a health hazard – because campylobacter frequently crops up on the outside of packaging in the supermarket. It’s even known to leak out, dripping onto shelves below and contaminating other products.

The same thing happens at home too – cross-contamination in the refrigerator. Get campylobacter on your lettuce and your stomach will soon know all about it.

Yet for all this, the FSA never says anything about packaging. On the one hand they clobber the producers to reduce a naturally-occurring bacteria. And on the other they hector the rest of us not to wash chicken. Back-splatter will contaminate everyone’s kitchen – and foops, everyone will be writhing and groaning.

Yeah, right. But have you looked at chicken packaging in your supermarket lately?

The El Cheapo stuff is just wrapped in cling-film – yer pays yer money…

Pick it up and it’s dripping all over the place, particularly the whole birds. The premium stuff – and most of the cut choices – goujons, drumsticks and the rest – are packed on foam or polyethylene trays, then vacuum sealed. So leak-proof packaging does exist – why doesn’t the FSA enforce it?

And to prove that the industry is on side, in some supermarkets, there is even a prominent sticker DO NOT WASH – the FSA war-cry for at least the last two years.

Collision course

Which is exactly where our crusading Food Standards Agency runs head-on into the stern and often dire warnings of Dr Dame Sally Davies, England’s Chief Medical Officer.

Yeah, do not wash chicken, you can see the logic.

But consider the whole principle of DO NOT WASH – and you can feel the hackles rise.

Because Dame Sally’s rapidly snowballing headache at the moment is antibiotic resistance – the fact that a whole slew of killer superbugs are becoming immune to whatever miracle drugs we might throw at them. The Drugs Don’t Work is even the title of her book on the subject.

Without effective antibiotics to protect us, modern medicine comes to a shuddering, grinding stall. Slightly more of a crisis than food poisoning from chicken.

Which is why Dame Sally is tirelessly at it, warning us of the over-dependence on antibiotics – and urging us all to do the one thing that can minimise our exposure potential to deadly superbugs – WASH EVERYTHING.

The ew factor

With good reason. Dame Sally knows that day-to-day, our own sloppy hygiene is probably the biggest hazard we face. The facts are horrendous, yet we all smile sheepishly and shrug them away. A&E will sort it. A quick shot of amoxicillin or whatever and we’ll be right.

As if.

Kinda critical handling chicken.

And there is no way to avoid handling it – like getting it out of the packaging for a start. Then chopping it, trimming it, slicing it, whatever the recipe calls for.

Don’t wash the chicken, right. But if you want to avoid the tummy cramps, better scrub that chopping board, counter top, serving platter and trimming knife within an inch of its life – and your hands of course.

Which you should do anyway. Because it’s not just possible campylobacter you have to scrub off, it’s the likelihood of all the other bad guys as well – escherichia coli, salmonella, clostridium difficile, methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or just plain norovirus – take your pick.

Rediscover hygiene

So – wash or not wash?

Frankly, our money’s on Dame Sally.

If we’re going to get through this, we’ve got to be germ-free and clean. No way we can achieve that without soap and water. But there isn’t any available in most supermarkets.

OK then, carry antiseptic wipes – and hope the FSA gets on the packaging case soon.

Just don’t hold your breath.

Picture Copyright: konstantynov / 123RF Stock Photo

Originally posted 2016-02-02 14:49:56.

Norovirus: why frantic $40K cleanup could still come unstuck

Anxious businesswoman
It’s not just the cost, norovirus can kill a business reputation stone-cold dead

You don’t take chances with norovirus.

Very unpleasant – and very bad for business – it has a boomerang property that keeps it coming back and back, whatever anyone does.

Boomerang in Kansas?

Which may soon be the experience of the popular New Theatre Restaurant in Kansas City. With 400 people down with norovirus last week, but determined to stay open, they’ve had hit-teams spray the place with a “Lysol-like” disinfectant – the same kind of stuff used on cruise liners – and boldly kept on going. Comedy performances of Out of Order starring Gary Sandy of WKRP in Cincinnati fame are to continue uninterrupted.

Let’s hope they’re not too hasty.

Norovirus is a nasty not to be wished on anyone. Cramps, vomiting and diarrhoea – up to four days and more, feeling like the end of the world.

Violent and explosive vomiting is one reason why a Lysol-type spray (similar to Dettol aerosol) may not be enough. It’s one of the ways the virus ensures it spreads as wide as possible. You’re not just being sick, you’re rocketing out your guts further and farther than with any other upchuck.

So if that spray doesn’t reach into every little nook and cranny, norovirus can be back in full raging force just hours later.

Virulent and vindictive

Norovirus is more contagious than other viruses too – 1,000 times more potent than everyday winter flu. All it takes is 10 tiny particles (around 2 microns in size) to become infected – and one particle can contain 100,000,000,000 particles.

But that’s not the only reason New Theatre Restaurant might still be in trouble. The spray they’ve used is water-based, hose-piping around trying to cover all areas. It’s potency is 99.9% effective – a Sterility Assurance Level of Log 3.

Not really good enough.

Water-based vapour starts falling to the floor as soon as it’s dispersed. It never reaches ceilings or walls, the water drops are too heavy. And with a potency of just 10 particles needed to start an infection, 99.9% efficiency might work for an hour or two – then it’s back to square one.

Meanwhile, the super-light particles of norovirus float easily around on the smallest wafts of air – smaller and lighter than the molecules around them – lighter than nitrogen and hydrogen (once used to lift airships), tinier than dust, wispier than smoke, so almost nothing they may never fall to the floor, ever.

Yeah, it infects on contact – but how do you think it spreads?

Plus, there’s the boomerang effect.

Repeat performances

Get rid of norovirus – or think you do – and it’s back, with interest in days. Again and again and again.

Check out the sad story of Fred Olsen Line’s cruise liner Amsterdam in 2002.

FOUR times the ship sailed from Port Canaveral, Florida, with a load of happy, expectant holiday passengers. FOUR times, the ship had to put back with outbreaks of norovirus. It got so bad that passengers on the later voyages were even warned before embarking!

Only when the ship was pulled from service and 600 workers took TEN DAYS to disinfect the ship under supervision of the CDC, was the boomerang cycle broken.

Imagine the cost – FOUR fully-loaded voyages with 1,300 passengers paying upwards of $1,200 each – TEN days of docking fees and port costs – plus labour for 600 workers, cleaning down to detail fomite objects like poker chips and bedside bibles – not much change out of 10 million.

Alongside that kind of money, New Theatre Restaurant’s 40 grand begins to look like chicken feed.

And was it the same Lysol-type spray that was so ineffective on Amsterdam? In which case look out future audiences of Out of Order – you may not be as safe as you think you are.

No more norovirus

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Norovirus might be potent – out of reach in the air, or hiding in cracks and crevices. But there IS a way to clobber it good – along with all other viruses and bacteria too – just by pressing a button.

The trick is to use a Hypersteriliser or a number of them. Called the Halo in the States, this minor miracle is a nifty portable machine about the size of a small wheelie-bin that sprays the air with hydrogen peroxide.

Not just any hydrogen peroxide either. It’s a 6% solution – the same strength you might use in a mouthwash/teeth whitener from the chemist – boosted with silver, the proven antiseptic treatment doctors used for burns and wounds before antibiotics were discovered.

It’s also ionised, so that as it mists the room or auditorium, the particles of hydrogen peroxide become charged, pushing dynamically to disperse away from each other. Spreading everywhere – hard up against walls and ceilings, deep into cracks and crevices – over, under and behind things where most clean-ups never even get considered.

Ionising actually changes the state of the hydrogen peroxide too. Already smaller and finer than water droplets – lighter than air like the viruses it preys on – the mist changes from a gas to a plasma, an electrostatically-charged cloud reaching out and grabbing at live bacteria and viruses, oxidising them to nothing.

A whole kit of extra antimicrobials help it do this – because ionising releases further hydroxyl radicals, reactive oxygen species, reactive nitrogen species, ozone (a more voracious oxidiser than hydrogen peroxide), and ultraviolet. Look carefully in a darkened room, and you may even see a faint purple glow.

Safe and sterile

An hour or so later and it’s all over. 99.9999% of germs are gone – a Sterility Assurance Level of Log 6 – and the hydrogen peroxide reverts back to just oxygen and water, in such small quantities that it evaporates to nothing.

Ain’t no norovirus boomeranging back after that treatment. Theatre-goers can enjoy their dinner and the show without a care in the world.

But let’s hope they’ve fixed it already.

Picture Copyright: natulrich / 123RF Stock Photo

Originally posted 2016-02-01 14:06:50.

Norovirus tummy bug – always the blame game

Woman - arms folded serious
Yeah right, norovirus is always somebody’s fault – and never the person who comes down with it

Reality is, there’s only ever one cause for norovirus.

Somewhere, someone doesn’t wash their hands.

Then they touch food, somebody else swallows it – quick, call the Doctor, I feel terrible!

Accusations, accusations

Your fault or theirs?

Never anybody’s.

It wasn’t me.

Yeah, right.

But make no joke, whoever it happens to, norovirus is always the pits – really unpleasant, the end of the world – and in bad cases, life-threatening.

It’s the end of the world if you’re running a business too.

Lots of fingers pointing – negligence, carelessness, unhygienic conditions – no matter how spotless your place or professional your staff. Difficult to prove anything otherwise.

Somebody on your side

So here’s a little common sense, to help you figure whodunit. Because if it is your fault, you’ve got to take action fast. Norovirus and bad press can put you out of business.

OK, reality again – who did, or did not, wash their hands?

Your customers will deny it, but them’s the usual suspects. Check the evidence:

Uh huh. And if you think about it, when was the last time ANY of your customers might have washed their hands before they came to you? Five minutes ago? Before lunch? If at all?

Now the common sense bit.

So someone’s moaning norovirus. Is it one person or a handful?

If it’s just one person, you can suspicion a mouse.

Customer Zero

Like how come, if you serve several chicken liver pâtés over a day, that only one was off? You’re a business, right? So most of your stuff to some degree or other is all made in batches – it saves time and stops the customer waiting.

So if one of your pâtés was off, they all should have been, right? You should have a dozen complaints about tummy cramps and upchucking, not just one.

And if all the others were OK – batch-made, remember? – why was that one portion different? They were all the same when they went to table, the only difference was the customer they went to. You can’t prove it, but that one customer’s norovirus misery was probably self-inflicted.

Same thing if it starts with just one customer – and then a handful more, hours or days later. Norovirus spreads by transfer. So your customer had his mitts all over the butter knife or salad servers and the rest of his table picked up the bug.

Bad this, because the ripple effect can spread wider. A few hours more and a whole stack of customers are moaning and clutching their tummies. Either by touch, or through the air, the norovirus has got to them and is giving them hell.

A whole lot of people out of action, but all triggered by Customer Zero – the common denominator.

When you know it’s you

Because if everybody all comes down with it at once, you know it’s YOUR fault. Something or someone engaging with your customers is contaminated – they’re all exposed at the same time, they all come down together.

OK, you know what to do – or do you?

Maybe you’ve read about those hospitals and cruise ships where norovirus keeps coming back. The same will happen to you if you’re not careful.

This stuff is highly contagious and VERY efficient at spreading. With violent vomiting particularly, norovirus gets everywhere. It’s a virus too, don’t forget. Which means every cell is tiny. Small, as in, it can fall THROUGH a roofing tile without stopping.

Which means among all the other things it is, it’s airborne. It rides the air – swirling, twisting, spreading, turning – so light that it may never reach the floor. So it’s on the walls, on the ceiling, on the light fittings, and under the tables all at once. In the air throughout your whole place too. Blown around by the air conditioning, the rush of air as people come in the door.

And it can survive in all of these places for up to ten days or more.

Impossible, impossible

So you scrub the place down with carbolic and everything – and next day one of your waiters walks into a floating cell that takes him in the eye. Four hours later, he’s vomiting too – and you’ve only just re-opened after clearing up the last lot.

Or it could be somewhere else. On the maître d’s lectern, all over the PDQ machines. First person who keys in a total – boom, they’ve got the runs within hours.

And if not there, there’s plenty of other places. All unreachable or just never thought of. Brushing against people as they walk through the curtains. Among the cushions on the banquette. Or the one everybody forgets, all over your stack of menus.

How long is it going to take to clean all those places? Can your cleaning cloths reach into those cracks where a virus only 2 microns across might lurk? There’s millions and millions of places, can you be sure to catch them all?

Eliminating the odds

Actually, yes, you can. With a Hypersteriliser.

Press the button and it mists up your place with an ionised cloud of hydrogen peroxide – electrostatically charged to spread everywhere, actively reaching out and oxidising viruses and bacteria as it does.

Forty minutes, an hour, and the place is sterile. No more norovirus. No more repeat infections either.

Until the next customer breezes in straight off the street and climbs straight into the stuffed olives while the table’s main course is processing.

There’s a cure for that too. Don’t put anything on the table until every customer is handed an antiseptic hand wipe, courtesy of the house.

OK, now let them blame all they like.

Ooh my tummy, I’m going to hurl, blame, blame, blame.

You’ve taken the precautions and you know.

It isn’t you. Never, never and never again.

Picture Copyright: brendan80 / 123RF Stock Photo

Originally posted 2016-01-29 15:26:27.

Killer poison on hands – saved by Cornish pasty

Hungry miner
Thirteenth Century rescue from death – the crimped pastry edge of Cornish pasties was effective protection against arsenic poisoning

It’s a fatal choice to make.

Your lunch, or your life.

Because down in the dark of a Cornish tin mine, those hunger pangs could be the end of you. No chance of getting back topside to eat, your shift is all day. Time is money. Stay down till you drop.

Dirty and deadly

Hard work this, deadly too. Tin ore produces arsenic dust. Which of course gets everywhere – on your clothes, on your skin, in your hair. There’s no such thing as an OLD Cornish tin miner.

Pickaxe, shovel, crowbar – the blokes are all starving.

“Oggy, oggy, oggy!”

(Pasty, pasty, pasty – the real D-shaped Cornish jobs – potatoes, swedes, onions, chopped beef, salt and pepper – with thick pastry and a heavily crimped, curved edge.)

It’s the wives and sweethearts up top, ready with hot Cornish pasties. They lower them down and the smell drives you mad. The lads’ mouths pucker in the flickering lamplight.

“Oy, oy, oy!”

The answering yell rings off the rock face.

Yum, pasties.

But your hands are filthy as hell, already going yellow. Arsenic trioxide – deadly if you swallow it. Stomach troubles, prostate, all kinds of cancer.

Nowhere to wash though, down here underground. Except seepage down the one wall, deep yellow in the light of the candle. More arsenic in the groundwater, the deadliest wash ever.

Like your mates around you, you grab for the basket.

Heb grev. No problem, as they say in Cornwall.

Poison protection

The deeply crimped pastry edge down the side of the pasty allows you to snatch it up with poisoned fingers without touching the meaty middle.

High-tech Cornish cooking – Thirteenth Century style.

You eat your fill of the middle and throw the pastry crust away. It’s your gift to the Knockers – the little folk who live in the mine and make mischief if they’re forgotten – like a rock-fall on a man’s leg.

You get the message.

Eight hundred years ago we already knew that eating with dirty hands could be fatal. And our thanks to the Cornish pasty experts at Ginsters for bringing this to our attention.

Doesn’t look like we’ve learned though. Just about everything we count as a favourite is finger-food today – burgers, pizzas, pies, rolls, wraps, sandwiches, fish and chips.

Scoff any of that lot and you’re a shoo-in for norovirus – the Don’t Wash Hands Disease.

Four days of cramps, runs and upchucks – all self-inflicted because soap and water is not on the radar.

Well it’s not, is it?

The price of dirty hands

How many times a day do you wash your hands? C’mon now, don’t be shy. We’re all just as bad – thinking we’re safe, when we’re setting ourselves up for misery.

For instance:

Try that in old Cornwall and you’d be dead.

Because how many other fast foods are smart enough to have grab handles, so you can eat them with polluted paws and not come unstuck? Or are you going to tell us you sit at your iPad and actually eat with a knife and fork?

Yeah, pull the other one. We’re quick enough to point the finger and say “food poisoning” – when all the time we’re probably the victims of our own carelessness.

OK, norovirus is not arsenic – but it CAN kill. And there’s plenty of other nasties out there that can do the same.

Campylobacter for instance, next stop irritable bowel syndrome – and a life-time of embarrassing discomfort. Or salmonella, with high expectations of diabetes, arthritis, kidney failure and high blood pressure.

Yeah, enjoy your meal!

But if you’re not going to poison yourself, you might want scrub up first.

Picture Copyright: siberia / 123RF Stock Photo

Originally posted 2016-01-28 15:37:13.

Food poisoning for real, or customer trying it on?

Fingers crossed
Just because you can’t SEE germs, doesn’t mean our hands aren’t loaded with them

Not used to issues like this, are you?

It raises an uncomfortable question – not for you, for your customers.

Because right up front, how many of them wash their hands before they eat?

“Ew Factor” could cost you thousands

But you already know the answer – can probably say exactly how many guests get up from their table before food is served and go to the restroom.

Yeah, right. A handful maybe, depending on the size of your place. Certainly not everybody, your restroom’s not that big. And all those people moving around at once would upset the other diners – never mind your staff twisting through with hot plates.

Which means everybody else is straight in off the street and you don’t know where they’ve been. Or more to the point, where their hands have been.

OK, so put yourself in their shoes, what do you reckon?

Did they wash before leaving work? After their ride in the taxi/Underground? And if not, what were they doing before that? What did they touch?

Or to stop the pussy-footing, what’s on their fingers RIGHT NOW that could give them collywobbles if they swallowed it?

Collywobbles meaning norovirus, or some equally unpleasant bug spread by direct contact.

Poo on their fingers

Yeah, they call it the “winter vomiting bug” and other round-the-houses names  – but the elephant in the room is that it spreads from unwashed hands. And unwashed hands in a food business like yours is an unspeakable but major problem.

Not staff hands, CUSTOMER hands – because they’re the ones touching everything and actually going into mouths.

Sure, your own staff need to be careful too – but they know the odds. Poor hygiene, bad rep, nasty lawsuits, shut the business, no more job. Not worth the risk.

Not like your customers.

Yeah, sure – loyal to you, enthusiastic about the experience you offer, nice enough on the surface.

Except like most of us, they don’t take criticism – and certainly would never accept it’s THEIR dirty hands that made them ill, not something wrong with your food.

They’re customers, see? Never wrong. And probably in denial that their personal hygiene is ever less than perfect. Like, their hands don’t LOOK dirty, do they?

Push comes to shove, it’s likely they’ll win any court case, even though it’s probably their own fault.

How can we dare to say this?

Because when you look at the facts, our day-to-day hygiene is so bad, it’s a wonder we’re not ALL of us in hospital with dysentery or something worse.

So there you are, busting a gut, doing everything to make your food safe and your place spotless. And there’s Mr Money-Bags, all too ready to squawk at the slightest hiccup, let alone tummy-ache – sitting posh as you like, quite probably with poo on his hands.

Or just as likely, on the cash or credit card he’s going to shove at you at the end of the meal.

Food poisoning? Yeah, pull the other one.

Except there’s not a lot you can do is there? Certainly not diss your customers or lay blame on them. And there’s no way you can FORCE them to the restroom.

How to start winning

But you can get ahead of the game. Turn it round and make it work for you.

Remember the last time YOU went on a splurge? Hit some swanky restaurant or flew first class – swanning around like you owned the place, at least for one night?

OK, remember the hot towels? All terribly la-di-da, offered to you with white gloves and a pair of tongs – a courtesy to wipe your hands and face.

Right, so you pull the same stunt.

Only instead of hot towels, YOU offer YOUR guests individual sachets of antiseptic hand wipes. Mr Money-Bags is not going to refuse is he? Mrs Money-Bags will probably even open it for him. And your staff look like paragons of virtue – especially with a silver tray to collect the used wipes afterwards

Which means if either of them has poo on their hands, the problem has gone away. Food poisoning isn’t going to happen because you’ve removed the cause. And your customers think you’re a million dollars for being so thoughtful.

To ram it home, you pull the stunt even further. Sterilise the whole place so guests know you’re serious about offering a good experience and caring for their welfare.

After trade every night or before you open next morning, you mist the place up for an hour or so with ionised hydrogen peroxide. One button on the Hypersteriliser machine does the trick.

No more viruses or bacteria anywhere in the treated areas. Not on tables, chairs, glasses, cutlery, light fittings, anything – not even in the air around them. Safe, secure, sterilised for your protection.

Customers still trying it on?

We don’t think so. Not unless there really IS something off with your food.

But somehow, you’re not likely to let that happen.

 Picture Copyright: citalliance / 123RF Stock Photo

Originally posted 2016-01-26 15:12:54.

Mind-bender antibiotics: hello date-rape obesity

Scared fat woman
You never know it’s happening, until it does. Copyright: xavigm / 123RF Stock Photo

Just a little pill, maybe a capsule.

But not slipped into your drink or hidden in your food – taken by you voluntarily.

Because your doctor prescribed it. A nasty chest infection perhaps – or in your urinary tract. UTIs are dangerous and need immediate attention.

Beware, beware

But that pill is dangerous too – to your particular system. An antibiotic that kills germs, yes – but also knocks out so many of your own bacteria inside your gut, you’re suddenly out of kilter.

Out of kilter, out of control, powerless and knowing nothing about it – as treacherous to you as the date-rape drug, rohypnol. Because now, against your will, you’re going to get fat – overweight like two-thirds of British adults already are – another victim of the obesity epidemic.

Fat, from one little pill? You’re probably on a course of them 3 times a day for 7 days, 500 mg each, serious stuff. First to tip you out of balance – and then to keep on shoving.

As we’re only starting to recognise now, our bodies are filled with microbes. At least 100 trillion bacteria live in our gut, more than ten times our total of human cells. There are even more viruses than bacteria, maybe 1,000 times more – and fungi too, we’re host to a whole micro-world we’re never aware of – mostly beneficial, some dormant, some hostile but unable to do anything because they’re so out-numbered.

Wow, a whole new entity of our bodies we never knew about – our living life force, possibly more important than our brain, heart, lungs and all of the rest of us put together. Teeming and breeding, doing all the heavy lifting we always thought we did ourselves – like digesting, driving our feelings, regulating our body balance and controlling our immune system.

Disaster explosion

OK, so you can imagine what happens when a dose of antibiotics suddenly arrives among this lot out of nowhere. Antibiotics kill bacteria, so it’s like a terrorist letting loose with an atom bomb, then shooting in all directions with a machine-gun.

If your Doc is clever, this antibiotics bomb will mostly target the bacteria that’s giving you grief, the cause of your UTI. Your body balance changes, your bloodstream goes around, and your kidneys get reinforcements against what ails them. That’s the upside.

Yeah, but in your particular case – we’re all as individually different in the variation and numbers of microbes we have in our systems – your balance has gone for a ball of chalk. Lots of “good guy” bacteria have died, allowing more “bad guy” bacteria into their place.

And if you’re unlucky, that could mean enterobacteriaceae, a bacterium that interferes with food extraction capability and telling your appetite when you’ve had enough, sending false signals to your brain. Enterobacteriaceae, the obesity pathogen.

Maybe the bacterium triggers your brain into eating more – and eating compulsively. Maybe it doesn’t. Could just be that it squeezes every last ounce and energy out of your food, way more than normal. Is your poo less? Less body waste, there’s a clue right there. It depends on your metabolism.

So say you don’t bulk up immediately, your size 12s still fit if you breathe in first. Then you start to notice – always feeling tired, always thirsty, always busting to go to the loo – beginnings of type 2 diabetes.

Because you don’t just get fat on the outside, you can get fat on the inside too. Around your liver and pancreas spells trouble – diabetes without even LOOKING fat.

Antibiotics tsunami

But maybe it’s not enterobacteriaceae at all, you’re being manipulated by something else – still just as powerless, still a victim against your will. Unconscious brain washing.

Any farmer could probably guess right away. It’s the El Dorado of modern farming – feed antibiotics to your livestock and body growth accelerates almost immediately – from calf to cow in 18 months instead of 4 years – bigger, fatter, worth a lot more money.

Ew! Antibiotics have skewed your bacteria to fatten you up, just like a pig for market.

Which also means you’ve been on antibiotics long before the Doc gave you your current prescription bomb. All your life in fact – even right back, before you were born.

Because antibiotics have been so successful at growth promotion in the food production industry, they’re used everywhere and all the time – for livestock, pigs, poultry, fish – even vegetable, fruit and grain crops.

Pretty well whatever you eat has antibiotics in it – either directly in feed, or indirectly through manure boosting feedstock growth, lacing the soil, or leaching into our rivers and drinking water.

And every time they hit your gut, even in drip-drip little quantities, they kill more bacteria, shove your balance even more out of whack, reduce the vital biodiversity your body needs for all the many functions it has to perform. Leaving only the stronger, tougher basics – descended from the crude essence of the first life forms on Earth millions of years ago – able to withstand cataclysmic volcanic eruptions, meteor strikes, earthquakes, acid seas, drought and extreme temperatures.

You will survive. But price is, you’re going to be fat. Fat and increasingly unhealthy too. Not just from obesity and probable type 2 diabetes – from all kinds of other illnesses as well.

Not feeling so good

Yes, your appetite system has been massacred, but so has your immune system. And your Mum’s before you – and her Mum’s before her – three generations of continuous bombardment, so that our biodiversity is 30% less than it was the day antibiotics were first discovered.

And it’s not just you, it’s all of us. Two-thirds of adults, a third of our kids are already affected – by a slow-motion rape that is only just beginning.

Not the kind of thing you can go to the cops for though. Better to get clever.

OK, so if antibiotics are out, what protection is there against dread diseases and infection?

Not a lot once you’ve got them, except the expertise of your doctors and meticulous attention to hygiene – oh, and the one proven treatment before antibiotics, fighting external infections with silver.

Which means get a paper cut at work and you’re still reasonably safe – wash it out well and use an antibacterial silver plaster from Boots, £2.50 for a pack of 10.

Rediscover hygiene

And there’s key right there too – wash, wash, wash. Keep yourself clean and safe and your internal microbes can’t be touched. Mist up the air with hydrogen peroxide and the bugs in the air can’t get you either. And they’re there alright – flu, colds, TB, pneumonia? Everything else too, these microbes are so small just about all of them ride the air, even though they’re not normally airborne.

Eat right and careful too. If you can reduce enterobacteriaceae, you change the balance for other bacteria to take their place. Like if you’re lucky, christensenella, a bacterium that might actually make you thinner.

Away with 18s and back to the 12s.

There’s nothing nice about being raped – or being violated by obesity. But your soul can only feel better for being yourself again.

Originally posted 2016-01-22 15:04:19.