Why don't animals and birds get food poisoning?

25 September 2011

Question

Why don't animals and birds get food poisoning?

Answer

Nick - I guess sometimes they might, but they just don't tell us! I think there are some important differences between animals and ourselves. Many animals, of course, live on rotting carcases, and are designed to be able to cope with that. One of the main protections we've got against food poisoning is the acid in our stomachs, and some animals are able to ingest food poisoning organisms and destroy them within their stomachs before they get down to the gut. Then there are other animals that we know carry food poisoning organisms naturally, for example chickens carry Campylobacter and Salmonellas, Cattle carry E. coli 157, and they don't seem to be affected by these organisms, presumably because they don't have the right receptors in their gut for the organism to bind to and cause disease.

Chris - So the bottom line is, those animals in nature that are not equipped with the ability to cook food or keep it clean are therefore endowed with better immunity, better resistance mechanisms, or just don't actually respond to whatever toxin the organism uses to make us ill.

Nick - Absolutely.

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