Wash your hands

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Wash your hands

The Korea Food and Drug Administration has decided not to regulate the number of colon bacillus in naengmyeon, a traditional Korean cold noodle dish, because the bacteria don’t cause food poisoning.

Few bacteria are more misunderstood than colon bacillus. Many believe they must be bad for your health, when in fact, colon bacillus decompose food from the small intestine, produce vitamin K and help to absorb vitamin B, according to the book “The People Behind the Science” by Katherine Cullen.

Colon bacillus live in the large intestine. Problems can arise from it you don’t wash your hands carefully after going to the bathroom.

Thus, if a colon bacillus is found in food, it shows that the food was not handled hygienically. This is why there is are regulations on the number of colon bacillus that many food items can contain.

Colon bacillus is harmless in general but in the early 1980s a special type appeared ? pathogenic colon bacillus. Recently, O-157, one of the pathegenic kind, caused a massive recall on food in the United States. It is still unknown why usually meek colon bacteria turn so dangerous.

The U.S. government had a hard time because of O-157. In 2002, 73,000 people were infected and 61 died. Because of this bacteria the U.S. Department of Agriculture allowed ground beef to be treated with radiation despite opposition by consumer organizations. In 1996, in Japan, some 10,000 people were infected with O-157 and 10 people died. In Korea, the first patient appeared in 2000 and three have died since.

The Korean Food Code categorizes O-157 as food poisoning bacteria, but it has traits of infectious bacteria. A bacteria is categorized under “food poisoning” or “infectious” depending on whether it can pass disease to other people.

O-157 is so contagious that as tiny amounts as 1,000 bacteria per gram can be passed on other people. Symptoms are similar to those of dysentery. That is why the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has classified O-157 in the first group of infectious diseases, meaning it spreads at a fast rate and immediate measures are required once it is reported.

Koreans are known to be relatively resistant to O-157 and dysentery. When O-157 swept through Japan, few Koreans living there were infected. One hypothesis goes that spicy foods that Koreans commonly consume, such as kimchi, chilies and garlic, serve as a sterilizer. Whether or not that’s true, O-157 is weak against heat. We can prevent the disease if we cook food thoroughly and hygienically.

The writer is a special health reporter for the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Park Tae-kyun [tkpark@joongang.co.kr]
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