Cupcakes, cold cuts, E. coli — the paths to food poisoning are many, but they all lead to the same ignominious place: emesis, or, as we grew up saying, barfing. It sure isn’t pretty, and it smells terrible, but this grossest of bodily functions is also one of the most essential. Once the network of sensors in the stomach detects a poison — these cells act like a gastrointestinal early-warning system — a signal is sent to an ancient circuit in the brain stem, which coordinates the purge.
Barf Blog, a site maintained by a group of food-safety experts at Kansas State University, seeks to keep the public informed about the latest food-poisoning outbreaks. Here we learn that a certain kind of cake made 2,700 people in Massachusetts sick with norovirus in 2005; that 17 Canadians have died this year in a listeria outbreak tied to sandwich meats; that you don't want to give honey to infants. (Honey often contains botulism spores, which thrive in the less-acidic digestive systems of infants.) There’s also a catch-all category titled “Yuck Factor,” which features everything from a video of a man taking a bath in a Burger King dishwashing sink to a discussion of the potential dangers of eating yak penis. This is one blog that’s best read on an empty stomach.
to a friend