Unless you eat organic foods and prepare them at home, you’ve probably purchased packaged, processed meats at some time. Non-organic versions contain added preservatives, chemicals and GMOs; and, many harbor bacterial toxins that harm the body. Even their organic counterparts may be similarly contaminated during processing. Most processed meats are treated to stop the growth of molds and to prevent spoilage. Those that have not been chemically treated, such as organic meats, are still potential breeding grounds for unwelcome micro-organisms.
Fresh meat contains one ingredient, meat. Processed meats contain numerous ingredients, and not all are meat. Additives prolong shelf life, enhance flavors, stabilize colors, and inhibit bacterial growth.Processed meats include sliced deli meats, sausage, jerky, pepperoni, bacon, lunch meats, hot dogs, and meats used on pizzas, in canned foods, and in packaged products.
Salmonella bacteria is common in processed meats. Organic meats are no exception. Consuming salmonella-contaminated foods can produce illness in the form of fever, vomiting, chills and severe diarrhea — leading to dehydration and death in sensitive individuals. The primary form of transmission is through contaminated hands spreading bacteria during packaging. Washing hands thoroughly and sterilizing cooking surfaces and utensils help prevent contamination. Onset of salmonella poisoning is generally experienced 12 to 36 hours after consumption of contaminated meats.
Campylobacter jejuni or C. jejuni is another dangerous bacteria found primarily in chicken, raw ground meat, and raw shellfish. Although C. jejuni are easily destroyed with the application of heat during processing, the bacteria can still be passed to humans through cross-contamination. Symptoms of infection appear several days after ingestion of foods. C. jejuni is often experienced as a neurotoxin and complications such as meningitis, Guillain-Barre syndrome, arthritic pains, urinary tract infections and colitis may occur.
Staphylococcus bacteria are commonly found in dormant colonies in the nose, the throat, and on the skin as acne, infected sores, boils, or wounds. Staphylococcus is common, and in some cases can be highly destructive to human tissue. The bacteria are heat resistant and produce a toxin that forms on warm foods left uncovered in open air. When processed meats are handled and left uncovered, they encourage the growth of staphylococcus. Initial symptoms of staphylococci contamination include vomiting, diarrhea, cramping and extreme exhaustion. Additional symptoms that may later include boils, infected skin lesions, and MRSA.
Clostridium perfringens belongs in the same genus as is the botulinum bacteria. Although C. perfringens causes less severe symptoms than botulisim, it remains a dangerous toxin found in processed meats. Foods that have not been properly cooled or covered are prone to contamination. Symptoms appear as painful cramping and diarrhea that disappear in several days.
Nitrates and nitrites. Potassium nitrate and sodium nitrite are used as preservatives in processed meats and are known toxins to humans, according to the American Meat Institute. Symptoms include vomiting, headaches, breathing difficulties, allergies and death. Additionally, the presence of nitrates and nitrites in processed meats has been linked to cancer.
Sulfites, or sulfur dioxide is used as a fungicide and preservative to prevent spoilage. Sulfur dioxide bleaches rotten sections of meat, hiding it from view and destroying vitamins.
Artificial sweeteners. Many processed meats are sweetened artificially with aspartame, saccharin and other chemicals. These have been linked to various allergies, headaches, behavioral disorders and neurological problems. Additionally, saccharin is linked to cancer.
Emulsifiers and thickeners are used to change the texture of processed meats and prevent ingredients from separating. One common emulsifier, propylene glycol, is a synthetic solvent. It damages the skin and causes neurological side effects.
Flavorings. The most common flavor enhancer in processed meat is MSG, whose side effects are many. They include headaches, dizziness, allergic reactions, cognitive dysfunction, neurological changes, depression, chest pains, confusion and mood swings.
Colorado State University: Bacterial Food-Borne Illness
Puristat Digestive Wellness Center: U.S.A.=
Processed Food Nation — The Harmful Effects of Eating Processed Foods
AgriLife Extension — Texas A&M System: Bacterial Food Poisoning
American Meat Institute: Chemical Hazard Analysis for Sodium Nitrite in Meat Curing
University of Minnesota Extension: Nitrite in Meat
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