Food Poisoning and Global Warming

When the topic of global warming comes up, the discussion usually centers around rising ocean levels and disrupted weather patterns. Aside from those problems, another potential issue related to global warming could be an increase in food poisoning cases.

From Animals to People

This was the finding of a collaborative study between the University of Guelph and the University of Toronto. For this project, the authors focused on a group of bacteria known as Campylobacter bacteria, which is responsible for a large chunk of food poisoning cases.

Generally speaking, people are sickened from this bacteria after eating contaminated food. In some cases, people fall ill after handling animals that have been previously exposed to these pathogens. Researchers have noted that chickens often serve as the hosts for such bacteria.

Flying In

Though Campylobacter bacteria are by no means new to the scene, medical researchers are still not exactly sure as to how these microbes move from person to person. The study authors, however, believe that a common insect could hold the answer. They note that Campylobacter bacteria tends to cause more infections in the summer, and that this bacteria has been observed on the bodies of flies. Furthermore, flies tend to be most prevalent during the warm summer months. 

Given these facts, the authors speculated that warmer annual temperatures could lead to an increase of files, and therefore an increase in food poisoning cases. To put this theory to the test, the team developed a model to replicate Canadian fly populations over the preceding dozen years. They then used this model to project how rising temperatures could affect the country’s fly population (and by extension, food poisoning cases) in the coming decades. The model found that food poisoning could become a much bigger problem in the future, as Campylobacter-related food poisoning cases may double by the year 2080.

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