Long-Term Effects of Food Poisoning Highlighted Again

The food safety scientific community knows about them, but the public's knowledge isn't as good.

A number of websites and food safety blogs have published articles since 2008 about the serious long-term health impacts suffered by some people who get sick from food poisoning. An article in the April 2012 issue of Scientific American highlights them, particularly chronic arthritis that can cause joint pain for years in some people who had Shigella, Salmonella, or Campylobacter infections.

The list of possible ailments is longer, according to FoodSafety.gov, a federal government web portal offering food safety information. It includes kidney failure (it can occur after infection with some types of E. coli bacteria) and brain and nerve damage, such as Guillain-Barre syndrome (Listeria, Campylobacter).

Maryn McKenna, an author and journalist who wrote the April magazine article, writes frequently about public health topics including infectious diseases and food policy. Her article mentions a white paper published in 2009 by the nonprofit Center for Foodborne Illness Research and Prevention, saying it "unearthed research on long-term sequelae that were buried in the medical literature." The center received a grant from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to research how best to study the frequency of persistent long-term effects. The principal investigator for the research is Barbara Kowalcyk, Ph.D., co-founder and CEO of the center.

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