Skepchick Quickies 9.3

Happy Labor Day, everyone! On September 3rd, 1976, the Viking 2 landed on Mars to take pictures, analyze soil, and search for life. You can read more about that here.


Mary Brock works as an Immunology scientist by day and takes care of a pink-loving princess child by night. She likes cloudy days, crafting, cooking, and Fall weather in New England.

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  1. Mary,

    About that story from Wonkette. Christian Fundamentalists, any fundamentalists actually tend to have a very narrow view of the world, not mention the whole denial of evolution thing. I’m so glad we have the separation of church and state, here in America and a supreme court that at least is willing to do its best to strike down laws that violate it, otherwise the religious right might actually be able to get that “World History and Cultures In Christian Perspective” taught in out public schools. I wouldn’t be surprised if they already tried.

  2. Did you have particular reasons for giving up cantalupe, mango and lettuce beyond the risks I just learned from a short hop over to wikipedia ? Based on those articles it would seem the risk of actually contracting something is minimal if you follow basic kitchen hygiene.

    1. There has been a plethora of outbreaks with cantaloupe in recent years which actually cannot be stopped with kitchen hygiene. The bacteria grow in the rough surface of the fruit and cannot be dislodged by rinsing with water, when you cut it, the knife transports the bacteria from the surface onto the fleshy innards. In addition to this, the sources of contamination have often by Listeria (although Salmonella is also common), which can grow at low temperatures unlike many bacteria, so as it sits in the fridge you have a pathogen growing and outcompeting non-pathogenic bacteria which are unable to grow at this temperature. Produce as a whole is a riskier food due to a lack of a kill step. If you have listeria in ground beef, you can cook it and you’re fine, but you don’t cook a salad. The best a consumer can do is wash it with tap water. Industrially, they can be washed with sanitizers and risk can be reduced, but sanitizers are still not a kill step. Not to mention that the sanitizer’s effectiveness depends in large part on the aptitude of the user. Profit margins in the food industry are thin and it’s not uncommon for a food processor to take short-cuts.

      I work in food safety and even though much of it sounds like common sense, it really isn’t. It is hard to protect yourself from something as invisible and ubiquitous as bacteria even when you are knowledgeable about microbiology. I don’t expect the general populace to have a college degree in microbiology and that is what it would require to get consumers to handle food safely. Instead, the product on the grocery shelf needs to be ready to prepare right off the shelf with minimal safety precautions necessary by the consumer. These precautions also need to be clearly stated on the label, not just “cook thoroughly,” but “cook to 170°F.”

      1. To be fair, as someone who worked in a restaurant, it isn’t that hard to keep oneself from getting most big-name diseases, at least most of the time.

        For instance: put the meat in the veggie crisper at the bottom and the veggies on the shelves above. (Restaurants do this).

        Wash your hands *with soap* between cooking steps. (A habit I picked up when I worked making wings).

        Use a plastic cutting board. Wood loves bacteria.

        Some things you can’t do much about. But it isn’t like eating a cantaloupe is that likely to kill you. I’m curious tho, would a spritz for a couple of minutes with Star San or no-rinse sanitizer work? It’s used to kill bacteria in brewing vessels and is actually edible. (You wouldn’t drink it down straight but it’s not toxic to people).

        1. Looking at the MSDS of Star San, I wouldn’t recommend it. It has a health hazard rating of 3, which is comparable to chlorine gas. A spritz might not hurt you, but I’d rather not ingest even a small amount of something like that, at least not without greater knowledge of exactly what it does to the body.

          But the tips you give are good ones. But, in reality, I just cannot see most people washing their hands that much, not when people who should wash their hands professionally, like doctors, don’t comply with best practices.

          1. Hm, that’s interesting, because the way Star San works is that you spritz the inside of your vessel (you dissolve only a teaspoon in like 5 gallons of water) leave it for a couple of minutes until it dries up, and you’re sterile — at least enough to brew and not threaten you with mold (which ruins beer and cider). But I have zero idea whether or not that would kill listeria.

            People drink a bit of diluted Star San all the time tho, if you brew your own beer. AFAIK there’s not an epidemic of weird ailments among home brewers.

        2. Thanks to both of you, that was very educational. I shall be more mindful with raw stuff and generally during food preparation.
          Though I don’t think I’ll completely stay away from anything..As with a lot of stuff that’s reported to potentially increase cancer risks, if you stopped eating stuff you could get an infection from, you’d probably starve to death or at least get some problems with malnutrition.. :-)

  3. My wife works with classes of emotionally disturbed (and low functioning) kids. That article on “the throwaways” is just heartbreaking. I don’t know how the police involved can live with themselves. The comments they make about the cases seem to indicate a complete lack of humanity.

    1. Officers are trained to separate themselves from “criminals” — often times, they don’t consider “criminals” human.

      1. They not only separate themselves from the ‘criminals’, they separate themselves from the population — i.e., the ‘civilians’. This is all part of the gradually increasing militarisation of the police force which has been going on for decades. They don’t serve the public; the public are an inconvenience.

        1. You are right.

          According to police there are only two types of people:
          1 Police
          2 Criminals
          Everybody else will eventually fall into one of the above categories.

          This was a joke from a senior police officer I was friendly with. Many a true word is said in jest.

          1. Obviously, those two categories aren’t mutually exclusive. Though I’d wager that the entry barriers for becoming a member of category 1, after already belonging to category 2, are rather more steep than the other way around.

    1. Hmm.

      “But it’s just a system”

      C’mon, @siriuslunacy, there must be a limerick in this somewhere. “The sweet sting of freedom of speech” to quote an absent friend. Full honours go to you if you can do it!

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