The history of foodborne illness is as complex and tortuous as the history of eating. Since the very beginning, foodborne illness has been a perpetual hitchhiker in our journey with food. With every human advancement in eating and acquiring food, foodborne illness has been ready with a challenge, finding new ways to survive in changing environments. Bacteria’s tenacious flagella have withstood numerous developments in our diet and continue to plague our lives today.
IN THE BEGINNING
The food rules for early man were simple: eat what you can get. Lacking discerning palettes, these opportunistic hunters were most likely consuming contaminated meat, poisonous mushrooms and indigestible grains. The meat from abandoned carcasses? On the menu. The sickest, weakest animals? A quick and easy appetizer. The variety of microbial fauna they frequently ingested has been preserved for posterity in the form of coprolites (fossilized feces). These generous deposits give us a glimpse of their diet as well as the pathogenic organisms therein. Continue reading