When we think about DNA altering, at least for me, one of the first things that come to mind is science fiction. As a writer, science fiction is not my area of expertise, but I have read my fair share of novels surrounding the idea of aliens, super-human beings, or creatures too scary to mention while you’re awake. No, you have not stopped by the wrong website, because what we are talking about today really does lean towards the science fiction part of food safety. Today I want to share with you a concept, while still being looked at by scientists that holds some validity: Salmonella has the ability to alter your DNA. Yes, Salmonella alters your DNA!
Cornell University conducted research concluding that Salmonella poisoning does have the possibility to alter a person’s DNA. One of the main ways is by making the effects of food poisoning last longer each time you have it. As if having food poisoning wasn’t difficult enough. As of this writing there is still much research to be done but even the slightest idea could lead to major breakthroughs.
Long-term effects are what concern scientists the most. Rachel Miller, a Food Science researcher and auto likened the dangers of long-term damage to DNA to a sunburn: “We apply sunscreen to keep the sun from damaging our skin. If you don’t apply sunscreen, you can get a sunburn – and possibly develop skin problems later in life. The more you expose your body’s cells to DNA damage, the more DNA damage that needs to be repaired, and there may one day be a chance that the DNA damage is not correctly repaired.”
From there it is not a huge leap to understand that damaged DNA cannot be repaired and over time can lead to mutated DNA. This mutation is what will cause us issues later in life.
Salmonella produces a toxin in our bodies that can damage our DNA. Our bodies have an amazing way of repairing and healing but if our DNA continues to be bombarded by toxins, over time it will wear it down. This news is relevant to me since I have had food poisoning at least twice in my life.
Taking this new information, and applying to what we know about Salmonella, I feel there is a new urgency in how we need to prepare ourselves. Food safety needs to be at the front of our minds whether we are cooking at home, ordering online, or eating in our favorite restaurant.
It is important to know what to look for if you think you may have Salmonella poisoning. Here are a few of the more common symptoms:
- Stomach cramps
Not a pleasant experience. The good news? Usually these symptoms will go away on their own. There are times, however, when seeking medical help is necessary:
- If you have diarrhea and a fever higher than 102 degrees.
- Diarrhea for more than three days.
- Bloody stools.
- Prolonged vomiting that prevents you from keeping liquid down.
- Signs of dehydration such as: dry mouth and throat, dizziness, and making little urine.
Many of us have experienced food poisoning before. While not a pleasant experience, it is important to seek medical attention if you are not feeling better after a few days. Dehydration is a danger that can lead to more serious issues.
Preventing food poisoning is easier than you think. I stated earlier I can remember a few times where I have had it myself. The most memorable of those was when I was a teen. The point here is at that time in my life, I knew very little about what food poisoning was or what caused it. I was not aware that is a dish with mayonnaise sits out very long bacteria begins to grow. This bacterium, when consumed, gave me a night I will never forget.
Now that I am older I understand the concepts of food poisoning better. I can be cautious attending a cookout, or be aware of the dangers when I cook at home for my family. Whatever the situation, there are a few tips to remember to keep us safe:
Wash Your Hands
Taking the time to wash your hands before, during, and after preparing food is the best line of defense we have against Salmonella poisoning. The CDC has not only broken down washing our hands into 5 easy steps, they have also written extensively on the science behind it. Here are the five steps:
- Wet your hands with clean, running water.
- Lather your hands by rubbing them together with soap.
- Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds.
- Rinse your hands under clean, running water.
- Dry your hands using a clean towel.
Another easy to remember prevention method, also from the CDC, is what to do when preparing food. These four steps carry us through the whole process so we keep safe all the way to the end:
- Clean: Wash your hands, and then wash all surfaces you will be using to prepare meals.
- Separate: Do not cross-contaminate. Using separate utensils, cutting boards, and plates keep bacteria from spreading.
- Cook: Cooking food to a safe temperature can kill any remaining bacteria before you eat.
- Chill: Promptly put leftovers in separate containers and store in the refrigerator.
Some of this may come as second nature to you while other points you may be hearing for the first time. Make it a habit to follow these simple steps and before long you will not even need to look them up.
While the researchers find new and dangerous ways Salmonella to affect us, we need to remember to start food safety at home. Changing our DNA is something I never knew could happen, but it seems science fiction has turned into reality.
In order to keep our DNA safe, we need to always be aware of the dangers that lurk in the food we eat. Now that we know that Salmonella Alters Your DNA, we can prevent future issues. Taking the time to understand and practice good food safety habits can only have a positive outcome.