Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Death by cheese

There's not much to say about the course itself at the moment: lectures continue, no further earth-shattering revelations about the workings of the human body or glimpses of fruit flies. The first half of the week is much worse than the second - Data Analysis on Mondays is not in any way sexy, Biochemistry on Tuesdays has had far too much dry calculation of enthalpy and free energy so far, plus a vicious practical on enzymes today that lasted until six o'clock. On Thursday, Nutrition entered the realms of vitamins and minerals, and Physiology has covered things we mostly already knew about the heart and the vascular system. Food and Catering on Friday made us consider how easy it is for people in hospital to be under-nourished.

To cheer us all up, for two weeks Food Safety has been a catalogue of how many people die from various bacteria, viruses and parasites. Listeria was one of the more interesting microorganisms we heard about. It likes cheese, especially soft unpasteurised cheese. It can grow at less than 5 degrees C, so it will grow in cheese even if it's in your fridge. While it infects only a few people a year, it doesn't just give you a bit of a dicky tummy, it kills you. So try not to get Listeria. And don't worry, I have exaggerated slightly. But not much.

We were shown another part of an investigative journalism programme from 2001, where intrepid reporter Edwina Currie was finding out about the incidence of Campylobacter in chickens. I do think that the main reason we were watching it was because of the section where our very own lecturer was showing the winsome Edwina the results of tests done at Nottingham Uni. 69% of the chickens they tested were infected with Campylobacter. But we all know we shouldn't eat raw chicken, right?


travelling, but not in love said...

At my local market, the cheese is displayed on normal, non-refrigerated, market stalls. It sits there all day, often in the sun, happily ripening. And stinking, naturally.

If it doesn't get sold, it goes back in the van and I imagine it appears at a different market the next day.

It's a question of culture, I guess - in this case a nice listeria!

travelling, but not in love said...

And hey Lola, put your nutritionist head on and tell me what you think about the Special K diet - the one that is on every pack of cereal at the moment - I see them in the UK and in France.

They say eat Special K for two meals and a proper meal at lunch or dinner and you'll drop a dress size in a matter of minutes.

Surely this can't be a healthy regime?

Lola said...

Of course I'm not in any way qualified to give nutritional advice, but everything I've learned so far reinforces the view that if you want to lose weight and then put it back on again, take some temporary measure like replacing meals with Special K or diet drinks. Your health won't suffer in the short term, but if you do it for a long time you might miss out on essential nutrients.

If you want to lose weight and NOT put it back on, then you have to change something about your life and eating habits. Essentially, you have to put fewer calories in your mouth, and/or burn more calories in your activity, forever. Because when you're lighter, you use fewer calories. If you lose weight and then go back to how you were eating before, then sooner or later you'll end up as heavy as you were before.

I'm going to ask the lecturer about the cheese thing, because it does seem to be one foodstuff that often gets displayed at ambient temperatures, in the posher deli-type outlets, anyway. I'm pretty sure that the UK legislation insists on retail storage and display below 5 degrees C.

Stew said...

Shit! I come to this blog and find TBNIL is already here. Is the blogosphere really this incestuous?

Cheese ... the perfect marriage of bacteria and animal glandular secretions. Yum!

I confess to being REALLY blasé about bacteria and food hygeine. Any bacteria that can survive my digestive processes (and some do) deserve to get me. (And some do)