Modern life is way too stressful for its own good. Whether it’s work, the imminent boiling of our planet or the fact that we all seem to be charging towards political oblivion, there are altogether too many reasons to refuse to get out of bed in the morning and remain cowering under the sheets. For many of us, the sweet relief of something delicious is about the only safe option on the table. What a shame we are about to ruin it for everyone.
As comforting as it is to relax with a bowl of your favourite food, it turns out that some of our most popular everyday ingredients may be more dangerous and disgusting than we ever imagined. Hidden beneath the surface of several famous ingredients, there is a potential army of creepy crawlies, ready to do unspeakable things to you and your body. Be warned - what follows is not for the faint hearted. Here are seven terrifying parasites that could be hiding in your food.
1. Cryptosporidium spp.
Commonly referred to as “crypto” this delightful parasite can cause chronic, debilitating diarrhea if you are unlucky to become infected. Most commonly contracted from the consumption of contaminated water, crypto parasites have been noted in unpasteurised cider, milk and shellfish and are relatively common around the world.
2. Toxoplasma gondii
You might think you’ve never heard of toxoplasma gondii, but there’s a good chance that it’s heard of you. Contracted through eating undercooked meat or raw vegetables, an astonishing 60 million people are infected with this parasite in the United States alone, making it one of the most common infections on the planet. Though most people are symptomless and will not even know that they are infected, toxoplasma gondii can cause serious problems in pregnancy and with victims of HIV/AIDS
3. Echinococcus multilocularis
For our first foray into the world of tapeworms, we’ll look at a creature that is becoming more and more prevalent across Northern Europe and America. Echinococcus multilocularis is a delightful critter, which infects humans through contaminated mushrooms and wild berries. Once inside, the worm causes cysts in internal organs, which can be fatal if left untreated.
4. Taenia solium
The so-called “pork tapeworm” is the epitome of the terrifying parasite. Growing up to 10m in length, these worms infect humans through raw or undercooked pork, and can sit in the digestive tract for years feeding off the nutrients we consume. The prevalence of this parasite is actually believed to be the leading cause of epilepsy in many poor regions of the world.
5. Echinococcus granulosus
Another nasty worm waiting to ruin your day, the hideous echinococcus granulosus is significantly smaller than its porky counterpart, but potentially significantly more deadly. Contracted through consuming food infected with dog faeces, the worm causes the growth of painful cysts, which can cause fatal toxic shock if left untreated.
6. Trichinella spiralis
If you take nothing else away from this article, for the love of God cook pork properly. Trichinella spiralis is a species of nematode that can also be found in game such as wild boar, and can cause everything from diarrhea, to abdominal cramps, to fever. Though not usually fatal, trichinella spiralis is seriously uncomfortable.
7. Ascaris spp.
Typically, the most common parasite in humans is also one of the most terrifying. Also known as the giant roundworm, ascaris spp. is typically contracted from unwashed fruit and veg or infected water, and can spend several weeks maturing into 35cm hellspawn. Symptoms include abdominal pain, fatigue and, of course, diarrhea.
There are a few takeaways from this tale of woe. As previously mentioned, cooking pork is obviously a whole lot more important than we ever imagined. But arguably more importantly, it’s clear that dinner is probably more terrifying than any other time of day. Truly, nothing is safe.