One of the few things that humans do every single day is to eat and drink a variety of different foods. It is an essential part of life and for the most part, it is not something that most people have to worry about. In fact, usually the biggest concern comes from the fact that you may not like the taste of something, or that it might be a little too fattening or sugary than you would ideally like.
Food and drink can pose a significant danger, though. Many can contain chemicals, ingredients or other materials that in excess, can lead to health problems. Type 2 diabetes, heart problems and obesity are just some of the problems that can be caused by eating food, but these are well known about and are long term effects. They can usually be avoided simply by eating healthier meals and being more active. However, food can also cause more immediate problems that, while rare, can be very dangerous and lead to the death of those who are perfectly healthy.
Such instances involve food that may have been poisoned due to an issue in production or in preparation, while others may have an allergic reaction to certain type of foods that can cause severe reactions. There are also other reasons that food can become potentially lethal and this article will explore them, as well as some of the others mentioned above.
Many people know about the poisonous puffer fish known as fugu. It is something of a delicacy in Japan but is also served throughout the world in expensive restaurants. However, despite its deadly reputations, there are actually very few deaths that occur from eating the fish because of the great care taken by the highly trained chefs who prepare the food. That doesn’t mean that fugu should be taken lightly though, as more than 20 people have died from the poison since 2000. The vast majority of these have been fishermen who have caught the fish and tried to prepare it themselves, including a few fisherman from Tokyo who all died after failing to cut out all of the poisonous parts.
9. Hot Chili Sauce Causes Heart Attack
In 2008, an amateur chef from the United Kingdom died during his sleep after eating a very hot tomato sauce that he had created the day before. Due to a long-running bet with his girlfriend’s brother over who could create the hottest sauce, Andrew Lee mixed together a sauce for a chili. After eating the food, the 33-year-old, who was in perfectly good health, suffered heart failure and never woke up.
While death from eating very hot or spicy food is relatively rare, there are many cases where those who ate such food have been put into extreme discomfort. This often manifests as a burning feeling in the stomach and intense pain in the gut.
Unlike some exotic foods that are eaten in Asia, like fugu for example, Sannakji is not actually toxic or poisonous but it can still prove deadly to those who eat it. This is because of the way that the baby octopus is served. Rather than being cooked, the meal is served raw as with many other fish dishes, with the individual tentacles chopped from the body and served straight to customers with just a light drizzle of sauce or seeds. The tentacles retain some life and are capable of moving and using their tentacles while being eaten, meaning that if customers do not chew up the food adequately, the tentacles can stick themselves in the throat and cause choking. While it is very rare for this to happen, an average of six people die every year in South Korea from consuming Sannakji.
7. Curry Sauces Thickened With Peanuts
Curry sauces in the United Kingdom created in Indian restaurants and takeaways, typically use almond powder to thicken the sauces so that they are not too runny and are more appealing to customers. However, due to the expensive cost of almond powder, a trend has been growing to instead use ground peanut. While this doesn’t change the taste or texture of the curry sauce, it can have a fatal effect on those who are allergic to peanuts and are unaware of its use in the sauce. This is exactly what happened in 2014, when at least three people died as a result of severe reactions to the grounded peanut powder in the curry sauce, a large number considering that on average only 10 people die in the UK every year from food allergies.
6. Hot Dog Eating Contest Gone Wrong
Food eating contests are common around the world. They usually involve a number of contestants attempting to eat the most food possible in a set period of time, with the main danger being that those taking part might feel a bit sick. Its popularity is such as that there are even professional competition eaters. Typically, foods such as hamburgers and hot dogs are the ones chosen for contests, as was the case in a San Pedro school competition. Unfortunately, one of those competing began to choke from a piece of the food that had lodged in his throat. Paramedics were unable to remove it in time, and the 13-year-old died a few days later.
5. Popcorn Lung Disease
Microwave popcorn is often flavored using a chemical known as diacetyl. Those who work in the flavoring process or in manufacturing the popcorn will routinely inhale a large amount of this chemical, leading some factories to force workers to wear respiratory protection, although many did not. This caused many of the workers to contract the lung disease, bronchiolitis obliterans. This serious, but very rare, disease can cause death and is not reversible. Instead, it can only be treated to manage symptoms and may require a lung transplant if the condition worsens significantly. The disease has even been known to affect those who ate food warmed up in microwave on a regular basis, over a long period of time.
4. Iraq Poison Grain
The late 1960s and early 1970s saw Iraq go through a period of poor harvests with their crops, leading to the government eventually sanctioning the purchase of grain that had been treated with methylmercury fungicide. The grain itself was never intended to be used for consumption by humans because of the mercury it contained. The foreign languages and confusing symbols on the sacks of grain meant that many farmers were unaware of the dangers. Eventually, this misunderstanding meant that food contaminated with mercury was eaten by many Iraqis, causing severe health problems and leading to at least 650 deaths.
3. Mozambique Tainted Beer
On January 9, 2015, a large group of people in Mozambique celebrated the life of one of their friends at a funeral. As is traditional in the African country, those attending drank a locally brewed beer known as pombe, that is made with a mixture of corn, sugar, bran, sorghum and a yeast, used only in Mozambique. By January 11th though, almost 200 had been hospitalized with severe cramp, stomach pains and diarrhea. 73 of those who drank the traditional beer died as a result.
A quick investigation for the causes of the deaths suggested that crocodile bile may have been used in the brewing process and may have been responsible for the poisonous effect. Another possible explanation is that a poisonous plant that grows in the area and looks very similar to one that is harmless may have caused the injuries and deaths after being mixed in with the beer.
2. Michigan PBB Incident
In 1973, a company that produced cattle feed was accidentally sent a large shipment of a flame retardant material known as PBB, rather than a supplement used to make the feed. This toxic material was then mixed into the cattle feed and sold to almost every farmer in the area. PBB though, is highly poisonous and had contaminated the food source for most of the state. The effects were far reaching. The dairy industry in Michigan was crippled and farmers lost tens of thousands of cattle that had to be slaughtered. Most tragically though, was the fact that meat and milk contaminated with the toxic substance made its way to the public. Rare diseases have affected many local residents and the rates of cancer increased significantly in the area, with most pointing the finger directly at PBB.
1. Bradford Sweet Poisoning
The Bradford sweet poisoning incident took place in 1958, when Joseph Neal, a sweet maker, was accidentally served arsenic rather than a sugar substitute known as “daft”. As the pharmacist was ill at the time, his inexperienced assistant was tasked with dealing with Neal and mistook arsenic trioxide for the actual order. The toxic substance was then mixed in with the rest of the ingredients to create sweets that looked different from normal.
The sweets were then sold on to William Hardaker, who owned a small sweet stall nearby. He bought the sweets at a slightly discounted price because of their unusual look and sold them to more than 200 customers that night. This led directly to more than 200 being affected with arsenic poisoning, with 20 children dying because of the exposure.