Sunday, August 20, 2006

Eeew! That's gross!

Yesterday, I came across a news item that got my attention! "FDA approves viruses as food additive bacteriophages meant to kill harmful bacteria on lunch meats." Now, if that does not get your attention, it certainly did mine! Since I am a meat eater, and for lunch too, I must come to the bottom of this to understand what this is all about.

Virus additive in my food? Over my dead body! Well, come to think seriously, it may very well come to that. If I remember correctly my Latin lessons, "virus" means "poison!" The news goes on to say that "A mix of bacteria-killing viruses can be safely sprayed on cold cuts, hot dogs and sausages to combat common microbes that kill hundreds of people a year, federal health officials said Friday in granting the first-ever approval of viruses as a food additive. The combination of six viruses is designed to be sprayed on ready-to-eat meat and poultry products, including sliced ham and turkey."

In addition, "The special viruses, called bacteriophages, are meant to kill strains of the Listeria monocytogenes bacterium, the Food and Drug Administration said in declaring it safe to use on ready-to-eat meats prior to their packaging. The viruses are the first to win FDA approval for use as a food additive."

So, if I understood this correctly, these people will spray the ready to eat food with a cocktail of six viruses, no less, then package the food to sell in super markets! And they say this is safe, and good for the consumer. Wow! How does this work? Let's see...

First of all, these things are really tiny, so you can't see any of them but you can be sure if this is true, there are billions of them inside the package, and following is how it works, pretty much like what you saw in the original movie Alien.

The targets are bacteria, and the bacteriophages are like the terminators. They also look like teminators:

Terminators in the billions...

The bacteriophages have legs specially designed to hook onto the taget bacteria they are supposed to hunt, inject their own genetic material inside the host cell, multiply and simply burst and kill the host. Don't you think it sounds familiar to the Alien creature? And we are going to eat these guys? Eeew!

What these people selling this product do not say is after they have done their deed of exploding the bacteria to bits, what do bacteriophages do? Do they just float around inside our body in a dormant state? I want to know how long these guys are expected to live, if they do live. It is no comfort to also know that these virions can remain in this dormant state for extended periods of time, waiting patiently to come into contact with the appropriate host. Tracing the history of bacteriophages, their early discovery had origin in the former Soviet republic of Georgia! I am not sure I would trust this technology. Greek root word phagein, meaning "to eat" and I sure do not want to have billions of potential "eaters" floating around dormant inside my body.

To make money using these terminators, commercial biotech companies manufacture or harvest the bacteriophages all over the world, including countries of Europe and harvesting sites from Baltimore's Inner Harbor.

What won't they invent next? Safe to eat billions of needle wielding terminators ready to inject and burst? Will they mutate or go berzerk like Hal? Who knows?

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