When the mango bites back
Posted: August 28th, 2012 - 2:07pm by Doug Powell
As a large-scale outbreak of Salmonella Braenderup appears to be forming in Canada and the U.S. from Mexican mangoes, New York Times reporter Gardiner Harris, who has written plenty about food safety over the years, has his own crappy experience with mangoes in India.
Harris writes he accepted a just picked mango from a stranger in New Delhi and that putting it directly into my mouth — skin and all — was stupid.
“But why did my first horrible case of traveler’s diarrhea in India have to result from a mango? I love mangoes, and India’s vast array of deliciously different mango varieties has been one of the great delights of moving here.
“You didn’t even wash it?” Dr. Paul Offit, chief of infectious diseases at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, asked me later.
“Even by your standards, that was really stupid,” Dr. Offit said.
“Indeed, my wife joined me for the first week of my stay here before returning temporarily to the United States, and within four days she became terribly ill. I freely dispensed what turned out to be terrible advice, suggesting in the early hours of her illness that she avoid taking one of the antibiotic pills that we had brought for just such an eventuality.
“My advice sprang from the mistaken belief that the good bacteria in her gut had a fighting chance against the bad bacteria. “Honey, taking an antibiotic is like carpet-bombing a battlefield,” I told her in confident tones. “You kill off all the good guys as well as the bad guys. Let’s see if the good guys rally first.
“They did not. As it turns out, the fight against toxic bacteria is largely waged by the body’s immune system, not the sweet-tempered millions found in a spoonful of yogurt.”
At least he admitted he was dumb. But how much dumb – or slanted – advice was spewed out in the pages of the N.Y. Times over the years?