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The Risks of Eating in the Tropics: An Exchange

November 16, 2010

Whipworm

A few days ago we received the following message from Dr. Steven M. Fry, and because we don’t check our email perhaps as often as we should, and because we felt Dr. Fry’s message ought be met with thoughtful response, we’re finally getting around to posting this exchange for our readers’ consideration. And since the give-and-take involves unsightly blocks of text, we present it after the jump.

From Dr. Steven M. Fry, Nov. 13th, 2010:

Dear Editor,

I keep getting “invalid email address” replies every time I try to enter a comment, so, in the interest of keeping your readers from getting sick, please enter the following comment from a real public health scientist (Where Dr. Charles Kinbote is nom de plume – and apparently neither a Doctor nor a Scientist.)

Dr. Kinbote,

Fun article, but a bit thin on facts, misleading in some parts, and seriously off-base in other areas.  In the world of GI parasites, your allusions to the potential benefits of some GI parasites appear to have confused innocuous infestations of North of the Border helminths with the Yucatan’s truly harmful nematodes and trematodes.   Your broad maxim about the importance of size of dosage of infectious agents can also lead to troubles when eating fish or ceviche or cryptosporid contaminated foods.  Even small doses of trematode or nematode worm eggs or encysted forms of such worms in ceviche etc can cause the diner decades of poor health.  When you imply that basic hygiene and kitchen disinfection is “…a huge waste of time.”, you ignore the fact that over 60% of Yucatan’s commercial meat is contaminated with significant amounts of salmonella.   It simply is not good practice to touch raw salmonella contaminated meat.   All kitchen surfaces, cutting utensils, cutting boards, etc that come into contact with salmonella contaminated meat should be disinfected after contact, so, your other suggestion that “there’s a growing body of well-respected peer-reviewed research that indicates that moderate exposure is better, health-wise, than no exposure whatsoever.” could easily be misinterpreted to think that ingestion of moderate amounts of salmonella could be beneficial.   I agree with your assessments about the importance of installing window screens, hand washing,  not touching eyes, nose, and mouth, and avoiding closed-in places heavily dosed with insecticides,  but the rest of the article has some gaping holes that could put your readers in harm’s way if they followed your advice.

Dr. Steven M. Fry

From Hugo de Naranja, Nov 16, 2010:

Dear Dr. Fry,

Thank you for your close, if somewhat idiosyncratic, reading of my thoughts and opinions about living and eating in the tropics that can be found here.

At no point did I imply or suggest or hint that I was a medical professional of any kind or that my remarks were anything other than my own personal opinions on comparative health-risks in the tropics based purely and exclusively on my own explicitly personal and explicitly non-professional apprehension of those risks.

Before addressing anything else, however, I feel we need to take a look at your statement that “60% of Yucatan’s commercial meat is contaminated with significant amounts of salmonella,” a statistic which you seem to feel extraordinarily noteworthy with regard to health-risks in Yucatan — as you’ve stated this statistic not only in your above remarks, but in subsequent emails to me demanding my prompt response to same.

While I have no reason to doubt your statistics, I also have no reason to disbelieve the recent Consumer Reports study demonstrating that 67% of chickens sold in American supermarkets are contaminated with antibiotic resistant strains of salmonella and campylobacter.

Perhaps I and doctors I know in the US are perilously insouciant, but although we’re quite aware of the antibiotic-resistant salmonella and campylobacter present in the overwhelming majority of American commercial chickens, we do not routinely and obsessively scrub down our kitchens in America with chlorine bleach, but rather take simple, reasonable precautions when handling and preparing American commercial chickens.

Moving right along to another statement of yours, “your allusions to the potential benefits of some GI parasites appear to have confused innocuous infestations of North of the Border helminths with the Yucatan’s truly harmful nematodes and trematodes,” I feel some thorough correction is in order.

Since you have a broad and ongoing experience of public health and epidemiology, I’m rather surprised you should misconstrue and misread my remarks so dramatically as to suggest a complete unfamiliarity with the Hygiene Hypothesis and the Old Friends Hypothesis, both of which have been the subject of considerable and international study and peer-reviewed scrutiny since the late 1980s.

In brief, and for example, there is at present a wide, if not growing, consensus among medical researchers that inoculation with certain parasites, such as hookworm, pig whipworm, or human whipworm — none of which, as you state, is found exclusively “North of the Border” — elicits a complex immune response that serves as an effective treatment for such diseases as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, asthma, eczema, dermatitis, hay fever, and food allergies. (Please consider, for example, Rook GA,Brunet LR; Brunet, LR (2005). “Old friends for breakfast”. Clin Exp Allergy 35 (7): 841–2.)

Research and implementation of these protocols is a consequence of studies indicating that the reason children in industrialized nations experience a comparatively higher incidence of asthma and other auto-immune disorders is that their parents zealously shielded them from contact with micro-organisms which somehow confer prophylaxis against things like asthma. (Please see, for example, Strachan DP (November 1989). “Hay Fever, Hygiene, and Household Size.” BMJ 299 (6710): 1259–60, and Grammatikos AP. The genetic and environmental basis of atopic diseases. Ann Med. 2008; 40(7):482-95)

But even as I type these words and re-read what you yourself have written, I can’t but sense on your part a certain urge to rush to judgment and a rather explicit need to deliberately mis-read and misrepresent not only the content of my remarks, but my reasons and intent for making them.

So, let’s not dilly-dally:

* At no point did I advocate that people not take reasonable precautions when preparing food in the tropics, or anywhere else for that matter.

* What I did say, or at least try to, is that when you choose to live in the tropics, it is impossible to completely protect yourself from the great number of diseases and disease agents endemic to the tropics.

* What I did say, or at least try to, is that the best you can possibly do while living in the tropics is limit your exposure to endemic diseases and disease agents.

If you’re going to spend all your time worrying about diseases endemic to the tropics, and trying to achieve “sterile field” conditions on all surfaces in your kitchen in the tropics, then I don’t see why you’ve chosen to live in the tropics in the first place.

Hours devoted to disinfection might be more profitably spent learning or perfecting one’s Spanish or Yucateco, or studying the local flora, fauna, history, music, literature, anthropology, and archeology.

* My point is that food-borne illness is only one of the health-risks presented by life in the tropics, and of all possible health-risks, food-borne illness is perhaps neither as imminent nor as serious a threat as that posed, for example, by driving a car. And no amount of chlorine bleach can protect you from the risks posed by driving a car in this part of the world.

* As for your fixation on the dangers posed by eating local ceviche, I’m not sure why you seem to feel that local Mexican ceviche is more dangerous than raw fish anywhere else in the world.

I obviously felt no need to address eating local ceviche because the risks posed by eating raw fish anywhere in the world have been so thoroughly examined in the scientific literature and, as a result, so widely publicized by international mass-market news media, that I took it for granted that any even semi-literate person reading my remarks was more than adequately aware of the risks posed by eating, say, sashimi or sushi or ceviche in New York, Tokyo, Buenos Aires, Jakarta, Sydney, Munich, Hong Kong, or Merida.

* As for your strange misrepresentation of my remarks regarding quantity of inoculate and severity and duration of subsequent infection, it is entirely obvious that I was addressing the risks posed by the ingestion of the salsas that are as common to Mexican restaurant tables as salt shakers and napkins. And avoiding these salsas would seem a simple and practical and reasonable means of limiting one’s exposure to food-borne illness.

In closing, I’m really not sure what your point is.

If you are in fact familiar with public health issues, then you are necessarily aware that there are a great many health-risks in the tropics that are far more serious than food-borne illness.

If you believe that, for example, eating a salbute at a local restaurant is far more dangerous than the vector-borne diseases endemic to this region, I’d be very eager to read whatever research you should offer supporting your belief.

Sincerely,

Hugo de Naranja

24 Comments leave one →
  1. Hugo de Naranja permalink
    November 16, 2010 4:04 pm

    @Dr. Fry

    RE: Dr. Kinbote

    Dear Dr. Fry,

    I don’t quite know how to put this in a way that would shield you from misgiving, but this blog’s Professor Charles Kinbote is a glaringly obvious reference to the Professor Charles Kinbote appearing in Vladimir Nabokov’s internationally acclaimed and admired novel, Pale Fire.

    Since this work is so widely and intensively taught and studied in high schools, colleges, and universities, I’m puzzled by your inability to get the joke, and by your similarly inexplicable failure to understand that I, Hugo de Naranja, and this blog’s Prof. Charles Kinbote, are two distinct, and quite different, individuals.

    But, please, by all means, give Pale Fire a chance, especially if you have any interest at all in ever visiting Zembla.

    Sincerely,

    HDN

  2. November 16, 2010 4:34 pm

    This reminds me of an article or story on NPR or CBC (can’t remember which) in which a California man suffering from severe allergies came to the conclusion that in our modern society we have become TOO hygienic (if that is a word) and separated from natural parasites that have accompanied humans for millennia. Noticing that the kind of allergy he had was not at all common in so-called ‘third world’ countries, and after some research, he came to the conclusion that the answer to his problem was hookworm. He traveled to Africa, walked around in a hookworm infected dump site in his bare feet, and apparently found himself cured.

    So taken was he by his discovery that he began selling hookworms to cure allergies.

    A quick search on the net shows that this article was in fact on NPR’s “This American Life”

    http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/404/enemy-camp-2010

    It’s story number 3 – Enjoy (and don’t listen while you’re eating if you are squeamish)

  3. Ye Olde Gringoe permalink
    November 17, 2010 1:50 am

    Hey, William Lawson!

    If you’re interested in squeamish-making information about parasites, you should really watch a brief video that a friend shared with me a couple of years ago from the website of the New England Journal of Medicine.

    OH MY GOD!!!

    If you watch this video, I can promise you that you will never eat raw fresh-water fish of any kind whatsoever ever again anywhere for the rest of your life!

    “A 62-year-old man reported having had fatigue, fever, and cramping abdominal pain for 7 days. He also reported that he had recently eaten raw pond smelt (Hypomesus olidus)…After cannulation of the common bile duct, numerous leaf-shaped worms popped out…”!!!

    This is really not something you should watch if you have a weak stomach…LEAF-SHAPED WORMS!!! HELP!!!

    But if you have the sort of mind that’s interested in science and can look at awful things that are scientifically interesting without feeling sick, then you will probably watch this video and think that it is completely amazing!

    Here it is: http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMicm054461

    Good luck!

  4. Hugo De Naranja permalink
    November 17, 2010 10:24 am

    @ Ye Olde Gringoe

    RE: The Video on the NEJM Website

    Oh. God. Why?

    I’m. I don’t know. In shock.

    I’m struggling, here.

    To. Find. Words.

    I don’t know.

    Oh GOD.

    I mean. The worms.

    THE WORMS. THE LEAF-SHAPED WORMS!!!

    They just sort of. Oh, my.

    God help us all.

    The worms.

    They just sort of EXPLODE out of that man’s bile duct.

    It’s very juicy. This explosion.

    And the LEAF-SHAPED WORMS are kind of translucent. And shiny.

    Oh, God. Help me.

    RAW POND SMELT!!!

    Must never. Will never eat RAW POND SMELT

    Please, God. NEVER!

  5. Beryl Gorbman permalink
    November 17, 2010 6:56 pm

    Just the name of the fish – smelt – has always been enough to warn me off. And in recent years, the 7th Day Adventists have popularized spelt bread, which sounds so much like smelt that I can almost smell the river when it’s toasting.

  6. November 17, 2010 8:11 pm

    In defense of my good friend Steve Fry (especially since I was the one who sent him the original “Expats Anonymous” post), his point seems clear to me. There was some advice in the original post that was, at best, misinformed, and at worst, dangerous, viz:

    “This wholehearted attempt at exempting oneself from the non-negotiables of probability, science, and history, from the inevitable contingencies of the human condition itself, is more than a recipe for disaster. It’s a huge waste of time.”

    That is, of course, your opinion, and you back it up with facts such as this:

    “And there’s a growing body of well-respected peer-reviewed research that indicates that moderate exposure is better, health-wise, than no exposure whatsoever. This research indicates, for example, that chronic infection with certain intestinal parasites confers at least limited immunity to certain diseases far more hazardous than intestinal parasites.”

    I wholeheartedly agree with the first sentence (I can’t speak for Steve). But linking it to the second sentence is what set off alarms. Steve and I have a friend who recently was hospitalized in Merida with parasites gone wild, so I assume that he was reacting to your suggestion that such parasites could be beneficial, which seems to undercut their potential danger. Steve apparently had not read articles or listened to the NPR broadcast about the hookworm panacea for allergies. But lumping hookworms in with other, more dangerous parasites … well, I believe Steve found that reckless.

    The irony here is that when I sent the link to your article, it was not to alert him to a potential public health hazard. Here’s exactly what I wrote: “You need to read this. Very well written.” I included a link to the article.

    Dr. Fry did not agree.

    “It is a short walk from the hallelujah to the hoot,” Nabakov supposedly once said. Because I wasted my college education on liberal arts, I knew who Charles Kinbote was. Dr. Fry, however, is a scientist, and may not be a Nabakov enthusiast. And possibly because I had imported gravitas to your article by recommending it, Steve may have assumed your nom de plume was real and that you were also a scientist, and not an homage. Had he read Pale Fire, he would have known that not only were you not a medical expert, but that you were an unreliable narrator as well.

    “A writer should have the precision of a poet and the imagination of a scientist,” is another quote attributed to Nabakov. Where the hell did he say that? I can’t find it. But what he did say was something to the effect that the scientist sees everything that happens in a single point of space — or, in this case, a single paragraph — while the poet perceives everything that happens in one point of time. Your ability to convey the range of revulsion of eating in the tropics was worthy of a poet; as a scientist, not so much.

    In response to some of the points in the rebuttal (is this by the same person? I am so confused):

    “At no point did I advocate that people not take reasonable precautions when preparing food in the tropics, or anywhere else for that matter.” Um, yes you did. You said it was a “waste of time.”

    “What I did say, or at least try to, is that when you choose to live in the tropics, it is impossible to completely protect yourself from the great number of diseases and disease agents endemic to the tropics.” You may have implied this; I, a liberal arts major, did not infer this. I instead gathered that you felt it was a waste of time to try to protect yourself because it is hopeless. Abandon all hope ye who enter Merida and environs.

    “My point is that food-borne illness is only one of the health-risks presented by life in the tropics, and of all possible health-risks, food-borne illness is perhaps neither as imminent nor as serious a threat as that posed, for example, by driving a car.” Your article wasn’t about general health risks. It was about health risks from eating food.

    “As for your fixation on the dangers posed by eating local ceviche, I’m not sure why you seem to feel that local Mexican ceviche is more dangerous than raw fish anywhere else in the world.” I’m with you on this one. I love ceviche. Especially at Tommy’s (although I guess that is no longer its name). As I recall, Steve was with me when I had ceviche for the first time on a skiff off Rio Largartos a few years ago. I don’t recall a warning then, but I suspect I would have ignored him if he had tried.

    “As for your strange misrepresentation of my remarks regarding quantity of inoculate and severity and duration of subsequent infection, it is entirely obvious that I was addressing the risks posed by the ingestion of the salsas that are as common to Mexican restaurant tables as salt shakers and napkins. And avoiding these salsas would seem a simple and practical and reasonable means of limiting one’s exposure to food-borne illness.” I guess I missed this paragraph in the original essay. Was this where you said it was a waste of time, or not?

    Unlike Steve, I greatly enjoyed your essay for what it was, as I enjoy everything you write. I read a lot of blogs, and yours is far better than most of the dreck out there, including my own.

    It probably does not need to be said, but I am not speaking for Steve, nor have I talked to him about your article after sending the link to him. But as you were kicking him around pretty good, I thought someone should speak up for him. He’s a great guy, for a scientist.

    Your obedient servant,

    EJ Albright

  7. November 17, 2010 11:36 pm

    If I may have a word, I think what’s causing the confusion here is either a lack of attention span on behalf of the readers, or a lack of brevity and/or clarity on behalf of my colleague Hugo de Naranja, whom I know well as a studious and outspoken proponent of science-based medicine (and we are two different people, for those of you with doubts.) Because I honestly don’t think anyone has anything to be upset about here.

    Mr./Mrs. Albright (sorry, I don’t know if you’re a man or a woman!,) you said‘At no point did I advocate that people not take reasonable precautions when preparing food in the tropics, or anywhere else for that matter.’ Um, yes you did. You said it was a ‘waste of time.'”

    A careful re-read of Hugo’s original post, however, would suggest that he was not dismissing reasonable precautions, but was questioning the necessity, efficacy and sanity of the panicked, obsessive scrubbing of some gringos who move here by choice and of their own volition, only to behave as though they’re living in a disease factory. If you look one paragraph above the block of text you quoted, you’ll see these words:

    “More than is wise I read the blogs and website comments written by gringos who can’t stop scrubbing their kitchens and bathrooms with chlorine bleach, who describe their supermarket shopping as if they were tiptoeing through Cambodian minefields, who greet each day as a marathon effort in disease containment, who live, it would seem, forever on the verge of a chronic and refractory hysteria.”

    I don’t think this can be fairly characterized as a pooh-poohing of reasonable precautions, any more than refractory hysteria can be characterized as a reasonable emotional response to living in the tropics, particularly when one chooses to move here on his or her own free will.

    You also quoted Hugo, saying this:

    ‘What I did say, or at least try to, is that when you choose to live in the tropics, it is impossible to completely protect yourself from the great number of diseases and disease agents endemic to the tropics.’ You may have implied this; I, a liberal arts major, did not infer this.

    I (also a liberal arts major) felt Hugo made it pretty explicit in his post with these words:

    Mind you, the most that the wealthiest and best-educated can do at this latitude is reduce their exposure to illnesses and vectors because, no matter how hard you try, some exposure is inevitable.

    With this post, I think Hugo was ultimately trying to say that if one finds living (and eating) in Mexico to be such a frightening experience, then perhaps, say, Scandinavia might be a more suitable place to expatriate, because even intelligent people who have lived here their entire lives, and have every available resource at their fingertips, haven’t figured out a way to completely avoid gastric upset.

    Though they do eat some nasty stuff in Scandinavia.

    I found it surprising that, given Dr. Fry’s apparent concerns about parasites in raw fish in Mexico, he didn’t warn you about eating ceviche, which leads me to ask if you might perhaps know what Dr. Fry’s medical specialty is.

    (And sorry about all the obnoxious bold and italics; we’re dealing with several layers of quoted text here and things start to run together.)

  8. November 18, 2010 12:12 am

    Also, on a lighter note,

    “In a sense, all poetry is positional: to try to express one’s position in regard to the universe embraced by consciousness, is an immemorial urge. The arms of consciousness reach out and grope, and the longer they are the better.… While the scientist sees everything that happens in one point of space, the poet feels everything that happens in one point of time. Lost in thought, he taps his knee with his wandlike pencil, and at the same instant a car (New York license plate) passes along the road, a child bangs the screen door of a neighboring porch, an old man yawns in a misty Turkestan orchard, a granule of cinder-gray sand is rolled by the wind on Venus, a Docteur Jacques Hirsch in Grenoble puts on his reading glasses, and trillions of other such trifles occur—all forming an instantaneous and transparent organism of events, of which the poet (sitting in a lawn chair, at Ithaca, N.Y.) is the nucleus.”

    -Vladimir Nabokov, Speak, Memory

  9. Dances With Chihuahuas permalink
    November 18, 2010 3:05 am

    Such a lively discussion. I hope we can all be friends one day. As a previous victim of intestinal parasites (Giardia) and a skin parasite (Scabies), I can only say “thank you” to the manufactureres of Flagyl and Kwell. I was also allergic to the scabies and must thank the manufacturers of Prednisone. I was infested with Giardia while eating at one of three well respected restaurants serving the Christmas Banquets I attended one year, well inside the United States of America. The lab reported that I hosted the great grand-parents, grand-parents, parents, obnoxious teenagers, and the newborns. I was infested with Scabies at my place of employment. I also had a friend who had a gall bladder full of Giardia as has been described, while living well inside the United States. Giardia is found in untreated drinking water and on the hands of infected persons. I just want to say that none of us are totally safe, even with well cooked food, clean counters, and good handwashing. And, after experiencing these infestations, I don’t take many chances with my food.

  10. November 18, 2010 9:32 am

    Thanks for finding the precise Nabakov quote in its proper context. And thanks for explaining what the good professor had intended to say (although I think the personae got mixed up in the translation). Alas, I did not decode the essay as it had been encoded. I am but a humble reader. What do I know?

    Am I a man? A woman? Perhaps I am a gynandromorph, a ten-dollar word I only know because of Nabokov and your beloved Speak, Memory.

    As for Dr. Fry’s background, quien sabe? As I said, he is a scientist. But I only have his word for it. I do know that is extremely knowledgeable about everything from dengue vectors to brake linings. Many a gringo or Mexican in the midst of a particularly thorny problem have turned to him for help. For myself, I have found he is right far more then he is wrong. He is a fine man, and I am proud to have him as my friend.

    Saludos!

  11. November 18, 2010 12:57 pm

    Reading Hugo & Kinbote’s posts above moved me to google “ponderous prose.” There are over 6000 references to the phrase. Perhaps such misunderstandings could be avoided if more writers understoodwhat ponderous prose looks like, tastes like, and does to many readers.

  12. November 18, 2010 2:02 pm

    @ EJ Albright

    I’m surprised to learn that Dr. Fry is a Ph.D.-carrying scientist and not a medical doctor, but it makes sense, because all of the medical doctors I know would advocate the most simple, sane and sensible way of managing one’s health, rather than the zealotry that Steven Fry seems to be prescribing.

    They would also understand such basic concepts as cost/benefit analysis.

    Perhaps that’s a lesson one doesn’t get with a Ph.D. in science.

    I’ve learned that if there’s one thing that should be avoided in all areas of life, whether those areas be health, politics, religion, or any number of things, it’s fanaticism.

    I not long ago spoke to a health nut from Mexico City who has lived here in Merida for ten years. She is extremely careful about what she eats and how she prepares it, and is extremely fastidious about keeping her home free of insects and bacteria, yet she still experiences gastric upset four times a year.

    I mean, isn’t it kind of crazy to move to a place on your own free will if that place makes you feel like you’re constantly under attack by any number of dangerous diseases? Isn’t it kind of crazy to willingly sign on for a life of frantic scrubbing and re-scrubbing? Isn’t it kind of crazy to delude yourself into thinking that somehow you will be special and dodge the health risks that people who have lived here their whole lives haven’t found a way to altogether successfully avoid? Is there not a measure of hubris and arrogance, even a willful denial of reality, in that line of thinking?

    Also, the fact that in every e-mail I’ve received from Steven Fry he has confused me as the author of the post leads me to believe that he has yet to do a careful reading of the very text he seems to be so outraged over. The very first paragraph of that post is exactly as follows, bold added for emphasis:

    “Expats Anonymous is proud to announce the launch of its restaurant blog, Eat Merida. To mark this momentous occasion, we present to you this post, written by our own Hugo de Naranja.

  13. November 18, 2010 10:32 pm

    Pursuant to Steven Fry’s demands, I’m posting every e-mail he has sent me in regards to this exchange:

    FROM STEVEN FRY TO EXPATS ANON, NOV 13

    Dear Editor,
    I keep getting “invalid email address” replies every time I try to enter a comment, so, in the interest of keeping your readers from getting sick, please enter the following comment from a real public health scientist (Where Dr. Charles Kinbote is nom de plume – and apparently neither a Doctor nor a Scientist.)

    Dr. Kinbote,
    Fun article, but a bit thin on facts, misleading in some parts, and seriously off-base in other areas. In the world of GI parasites, your allusions to the potential benefits of some GI parasites appear to have confused innocuous infestations of North of the Border helminths with the Yucatan’s truly harmful nematodes and trematodes. Your broad maxim about the importance of size of dosage of infectious agents can also lead to troubles when eating fish or ceviche or cryptosporid contaminated foods. Even small doses of trematode or nematode worm eggs or encysted forms of such worms in ceviche etc can cause the diner decades of poor health. When you imply that basic hygiene and kitchen disinfection is “…a huge waste of time.”, you ignore the fact that over 60% of Yucatan’s commercial meat is contaminated with significant amounts of salmonella. It simply is not good practice to touch raw salmonella contaminated meat. All kitchen surfaces, cutting utensils, cutting boards, etc that come into contact with salmonella contaminated meat should be disinfected after contact, so, your other suggestion that “there’s a growing body of well-respected peer-reviewed research that indicates that moderate exposure is better, health-wise, than no exposure whatsoever.” could easily be misinterpreted to think that ingestion of moderate amounts of salmonella could be beneficial. I agree with your assessments about the importance of installing window screens, hand washing, not touching eyes, nose, and mouth, and avoiding closed-in places heavily dosed with insecticides, but the rest of the article has some gaping holes that could put your readers in harm’s way if they followed your advice.
    Dr. Steven M. Fry

    FROM KINBOTE TO STEVEN FRY, NOV 15

    Dr. Fry,

    Thank you for taking the time to send this to us. This is Prof. Kinbote, but the article was actually written by Hugo de Naranja (I knew there’d be some confusion about that when I posted it the way I did.) I have forwarded it on to him, and rather than post this as a comment, he is going to write a new post addressing what you have brought up. You have made some very good points here, and Hugo agrees that clarification is greatly needed.

    Thank you for reading, and thank you for writing in.

    Kinbote

    FROM STEVEN FRY TO KINBOTE, NOV 15


    Dear Nom-de-Plume Kinbote,
    Why not simply post my comments with proper attribution? Why not give appropriate citations?
    I would be glad to reply with scientific and reliable advice to any specific issues that may come up, because I believe the original article has planted a number of damaging false perceptions that will likely stick in people’s minds for decades, and if my observations about the significant factual flaws are re-written in the same sort of gilded clever prose as the original article, people will still continue to believe the false and misleading information. Why write another cute but misleading article?

    These things are factual issues, and issues of personal and public health, and should be addressed by bona fide public health experts, not by people who hide behind Nom de Plumes like “Hugo” and false titles like “Professor”.

    I’m not upset in any way, but think that you do your readers a disservice in these areas by giving somewhat dangerous health advice under the guise of a false Professor’s title and by mis-using scientific principles and mis-applying research results to further your an Hugo’s mistaken personal agendas.
    Dr. Steven M. Fry

    You might note that I am a real professor, with actual public health training, who has been invited into 7 different countries to consult on public health and environmental problems. Your original incorrect and highly inappropriate treatments in the first article clearly show that you do not understand either the underlying microbiology, parasitology, virology, nor public health issues, and the serious errors and completely incorrect advice in that article also show that neither you nor Hugo are qualified to offer reliable advice on these issues.

    FROM KINBOTE TO STEVEN FRY, NOV 16

    Dr. Fry,

    You’re making a staggering number of assumptions about an article that has yet to be written. Hugo will be in contact with you. I can assure you that he was going to post your comment in its entirety and with proper attribution. The reason he wanted to make a second post to clarify things is because it will get a greater amount of attention than a comment simply placed at the tail end of an article that most people won’t go back and re-read.

    Kinbote

    FROM HUGO TO STEVEN FRY, NOV 16

    Dear Prof. Fry,

    I’m Hugo de Naranja.

    We checked our email only yesterday and, since both Prof. Kinbote and I have a life outside
    our blog, haven’t yet gotten around to posting your email with a proper, thoughtful response.

    In the meantime, if you’ll take care to read once again what I wrote, you might see that you’ve
    perhaps misunderstood some of my points.

    I was simply advocating that people who choose to live at this latitude learn to take *reasonable*
    steps to insure their health and safety.

    Americans, as a general rule, have a difficult time with statistics and their understanding
    of “danger” is quite often entirely media driven. At present, for example, a great many parents no
    longer allow their children to play outside because they fear their children will be kidnapped
    and raped by strangers, although there’s no statistical justification for this level of fear
    and concern.

    In a similar fashion, people here who are continually scrubbing down their kitchens
    with bleach are likely buying themselves a false sense of safety, since there are so
    many diseases endemic to this latitude that can’t be prevented in any way by scrubbing
    down one’s kitchen with bleach.

    Thank you for your understanding and patience, and I’ll try to have your comment posted along
    with my response as soon as I cobble together enough time to do so in a thoughtful and
    respectful fashion.

    Sincerely,

    HDJ

    FROM STEVEN FRY TO HUGO, NOV 18

    Dear Juice,
    Thank you for your kind reply.

    You have some good advice, and your intentions seem good, but your article and your last e-mail reveal that you really do not know what you are talking about:

    “…. if you’ll take care to read once again what I wrote, you might see that you’ve

    perhaps misunderstood some of my points”

    I do not think I misunderstood at all. The scientific literature on parasites does speak of potential benefits from minor GI worm infestations by a few relatively harmless species of flat worms found in the United States and Canda – but you have made a significant error by mis-applying a little bit of knowledge of US-Canadian parasitology to broadly and incorrectly extrapolate your small bit of knowledge to try to cover the rather nasty trematodes and nematodes present in both the USA and here in Mexico.
    e.g. Even in the USA, there are no “good” or “beneficial” cases of hook worm infestations, and every deent study since 1970 has found that roughly 15% of the US population has hookworm infestations that need to be treated.

    Truly, in spite of your excellent prose and in spite of your good intentions, you have made serious errors and you have given some really bad advice that needs to be retracted. Your insistence that I misunderstand, and your continued bad advice shows that you really do not know what you are talking about, and are not qualified to offer such advice, as in:

    “In a similar fashion, people here who are continually scrubbing down their kitchens
    with bleach are likely buying themselves a false sense of safety, since there are so
    many diseases endemic to this latitude that can’t be prevented in any way by scrubbing
    down one’s kitchen with bleach.”

    This advice is simply blatantly untrue for several reasons. Most homes in this area have cockroaches that trot around unseen, on our counters and other kitchen surfaces at night. Cockroaches are known carriers of common pathogenic bacteria that are easily killed by wiping counters down with bleach, because soap and water just smear the contamination around. Soap and water do not disinfect. Using an appropriate concentration of bleach (or peroxide) is the best and safest way to disinfect the common hazards found daily in Tropical kitchens.

    Bleach clean-ups that are required by all US State health departments is not some feel good activity that creates a “false sense of safety”, it is simple fact that is recognized in all of the USA, Canada, and across the industrialized world of commercial kitchens. Do you similarly advocate not washing dishes? Do you really think that common health codes for restaurants are in place to create a “false sense of safety” ?

    Combine the daily common insect contaminations of our Tropical kitchens with the likelyhood of contaminating cutting boards, wiping cloths, and knives with the 60% of Yucatecan commercially sold meat that has salmonella, and you daily have situations that can be made safe with a simple spray and wipe down with bleach.

    Since you seem to be unaware of these extremely common daily health hazards that can be easily remedied by bleach, and since you are unaware of public health standards in the US, Canada, and Europe, and because you advise exactly the opposite of knowledgeable experts, it is clear that you are not qualified to give advice, and yet, you persist in promoting exactly the wrong advice.

    I’d be glad to help you write a valid, useful, and helpful article to retract the incorrect information and replace the first one with practical and truthful advice, because non-factual and fanciful articles like your first article, plant entirely the wrong ideas and myths in reader’s minds, and your errors simply keep people from taking small reasonable precautions that do keep people from un-necessarily getting sick.

    You have some good advice, and your intentions seem good, but your article and your last e-mail reveal that you really do not know what you are talking about, and your previous and current advice is simply incorrect and potentially harmful to your readers.

    C’mon, try to help people be more healthy! Give them helpful hints on how to easily reduce their chances of getting sick.
    Dr. Steven M. Fry

    FROM STEVEN FRY TO KINBOTE

    Dear Nom de Plume,
    You say I have made “a staggering number of assumptions”, yet your other Nom de Plume “Juice” writer confirms that my assertions were correct:

    (Steven quotes the previous letter from Hugo)

    “Prof. Kinbote”
    Hugo’s insistence on repeating his bad advice shows that I all my supposed suppositions were correct, and it suggests that you should read my reply to Hugo, and instead of covering your and Hugo’s errors, you instead write a good retraction that includes helpful and factual information, and retracts the bad and truly harmful advice. The use of Nom de Plumes is cute, but in scientific issues, it really does do the public a disservice by creating a false air of competency by using a fake “Prof. Kinbote” title. Most people do not know Eastern European literature, and some of your reader’s likely take your professor title seriously,
    Dr. Steven M. Fry

    FROM KINBOTE TO STEVEN FRY, NOV 18

    Did you want me to post this as a comment? It’s odd that it’s giving you that “invalid e-mail” message when I’ve seen you post as Yucalandia before.

    Kinbote

    FROM STEVEN FRY TO KINBOTE, NOV 18

    Kinbopte,
    Yes, the first sentence of my first email has the phrase: “… please enter the following comment…”
    followed by a comment letter addressed to you. It is the same sentence that identifies me as as an actual living and breathing public health scientist.

    Since I asked you to enter it in the first sentence of the first e-mail, it seems that the odd thing is: you have chosen to dance around with offering varying suppositions, instead of offering the comments as requested.

    I explained that I have attempted many times to enter the comment, using 3 different e-mail addresses (hotmail, ymail, and gmail), and your blog rejects all of them. Yucalandia does accept all comments from all legitimate posters, where I only filter out the advertisers. I used Yucalandia as the website address for entering a comment into your blog, and I used the same email address as I use for Yucalandia to attempt to enter the original comment. There appears to be some sort of filter limiting comments to your blog.
    steve

  14. November 19, 2010 4:37 am

    FROM KINBOTE TO STEVEN FRY, NOV 19

    Steven,

    The fact that WordPress is not allowing you to comment is a technical problem on behalf of WordPress. I have made no changes to the comment system or applied any filters since you last successfully commented as Yucalandia.

    I’m going to stop responding to your e-mails until you do the following:

    1. Assume a respectful tone.

    2. Re-read Hugo’s original post, perhaps even more than once. Claims you are making have no basis in the text itself or in anything written by Hugo or myself.

    3. Examine who it is that really isn’t addressing the other party’s points. Between Hugo and myself, we have covered each and every point you have made. You, on the other hand, have been repeating the same words from the very beginning, and have given us no indication whatsoever that you’ve even read (let alone understood) anything we’ve said since your first e-mail.

    We have put significant effort into responding to your words with respect and intelligence. You seem to confuse what you think you read with what Hugo’s post actually said. Sheer repetition and incivility do nothing to foster a productive dialog.

    If for any reason you are unwilling or incapable of fulfilling these requirements, then I’ve no choice but to terminate this discussion.

    One more thing: Since you only asked once, in your first e-mail, I don’t think I can fairly be faulted for not assuming that every e-mail that followed was also intended for publication as a comment on the site. I certainly wouldn’t want anyone assuming that my personal correspondence was intended for publication without my explicit request. Therefore, any future e-mails you send to me will be posted on the site unless you explicitly ask me not to.

    Kinbote

  15. Eric Chaffee permalink
    November 19, 2010 7:39 am

    Many thanks to both “contestants” in this showdown. You’ve exhibited considerable skill in marshaling facts. It’s refreshing to witness debate that does not descend to personal attacks, but rather, remains focused on an issue.

  16. November 19, 2010 2:48 pm

    FROM STEVEN FRY TO KINBOTE NOV. 19

    Prof. Charles Kinbote,
    I apologize for the harsh tone in my previous emails. I thought you were playing with me, and that the combination of you refusing to post my comments, coupled with your extensive use of various nom de plumes, showed that you were not interested in serious discussion nor really interested in correcting unhealthy advice. These are some of the reasons for my previous harsh and partially demanding tone.

    I note that you still have not entered my comments on your blog, and your blog still will not accept comments from legitimate email accounts that I successfully use on other people’s blogs.

    Background: I have had friends from 2 different ex-pat families hospitalized for weeks here due to unnecessary preventable infections and preventable infestations, friends who followed the practices you alluded to in your article, and the practices that Hugo directly talks about in his emailed reply. These friends followed the same urban myths that you have alluded to in your article, leading them to serious illness that they have suffered with for 11 months and 18 months of malingering poor health since then.

    I thought you were using nom de plumes to present yourself with false credentials (as a “Professor”). Further, since both Prof. Charles Kinbote and Hugo de Naranja are literary devices, I assumed that you enjoyed writing false and cutely worded things that appear reliable by hiding behind nom de plumes. When someone is not willing to address people directly as themselves on scientific issues, it seems natural to assume that they have other agendas; that they need the nom de plume to hide things; and that since they likely have things to hide, the most likely things that need to be hidden are incompetence and errors in judgment. You have had and now have the opportunity to show your real intentions, are you actually interested in helping people to make good health choices?

    When you did not agree to my simple original request to post my reply, I assumed that you were intentionally blocking the publication any understandings that differed from your’s and Hugo’s and also blocking items that show you and Hugo as less than competent. I have not had problems posting to other WordPress blogs, so, I further incorrectly assumed that you had set up filters to block comments.

    Historically, I have found the use of nom de plumes to generally be childish and tiring devices used by clever coquettish people to mask their areas of incompetence. I apologize for my mis-assumptions and for my reacting to previous childish use of nom de plumes by other authors. I now realize that you may actually be more interested in helping your readers make rational reasonable choices than in verbal jousting.

    Still, you have not entered my comments, which seems to show that you are more interested in appearing clever and in saving face than you are interested in presenting reasonable and factual advice for helping your readers.

    I have re-read your on-line article several times, and Hugo’s emailed comments. While your original article (which you claim was written by Hugo), does not come out and directly say the things that I have observed are problems, it makes allusions to the points I raised.

    Continuing, doesn’t the following quotation from Hugo show that my assumptions were correct? What does this quote say to you?:

    “In a similar fashion, people here who are continually scrubbing down their kitchens with bleach are likely buying themselves a false sense of safety, since there are so many diseases endemic to this latitude that can’t be prevented in any way by scrubbing down one’s kitchen with bleach.”

    Hugo confirms that he / you / whomever actually believes that using bleach to disinfect kitchen surfaces in the Tropics is a poor hollow attempt to protect themselves from unnecessary infections and unnecessary infestations.

    The reality is that bleach is the best economical solution to disinfection against preventable and serious disease.

    Again, I have a bit of passion about this, because I have had 2 friends unnecessarity hospitalized for weeks due to them following exactly the same bad advice that Hugo has given in his email, and the same bad advice that you allude to in your original article.

    Salmonella infections are common here and are preventable with a few small precautions.

    Again, I may have misjudged you, and you can certainly prove that my assumptions were wrong by printing my comments, and you could instead edit your original article, and offer clear explanations of what you really meant and what actually works to easily and reliably prevent unnecessary infections and unnecessary infestations, all by simply re-writing your article and by posting my comments.

    What is your real interest? Cute prose or helping keep people healthy and happy?

    If you want references to the facts I spoke of, and if you want direct instructions on how to avoid and prevent unnecessary common Tropical illnesses and infestations, then you could read an old article of mine for factual details:
    http://yucalandia.wordpress.com/science-health-issues/salmonella-food-contamination-in-mexico/

    I do not advocate trying to live in a Level 4 Biosafety Lab – of which ironically there are none in Mexico, but I do believe in hand washing before eating, hand washing after touching lots of things in public places, and diluted bleach solutions for disinfecting commonly touched surfaces like door knobs, computer keyboards, light switches, faucet handles, and car steering wheels – all items shown to be almost universally commonly contaminated with pathogenic microbes, and far more contaminated with pathogens than typical men’s bathrooms.

    Please, consider helping your readers make good healthy choices, and supplement your allusions in your first article with some direct assertions of useful and helpful health facts.
    Dr. Steven M. Fry

    KINBOTE TO STEVEN FRY, NOV 19

    Dr. Steven Fry,

    Every single e-mail you have written me has been posted as a comment on the post, and has been since 10:32 PM last night, so once again, are you even reading what’s going on? I posted every word you have sent me verbatim, and yet you’re still accusing me of refusing to post your comments?

    There’s just no moving forward with you because you repeatedly say these frankly ridiculous things that have absolutely no basis in reality whatsoever. This cannot be a productive discussion if you cannot get very simple facts straight such as “Still, you have not entered my comments, which seems to show that you are more interested in appearing clever and in saving face than you are interested in presenting reasonable and factual advice for helping your readers.”

    As a scientist, you surely know that to come to any sort of understanding, we must be dealing with objective, empirical facts.

    Well, the objective, empirical fact here is that I posted ALL OF YOUR E-MAILS at 10:30 last night! Therefore you cannot reasonably claim that I “still have not entered [your] comments on [my] blog”!

    If you want to continue this discussion then start dealing in reality! Until then you won’t hear another word from me.

    Kinbote

  17. November 19, 2010 3:56 pm

    Since Steven has (repeatedly) brought it up, I’d like to take a moment to briefly address the use of “Nom de Plumes” on this site, and my feelings about anonymity on the web. I cannot speak for Hugo, but I think he feels the same way (and, once again, we are two different people, despite Steven Fry’s repetitive insinuations that we aren’t.)

    I referred earlier to the cost/benefit analysis, which basically involves weighing the cost of an action against its real-world benefits.

    The cost of using my real name to write a stupid, meaningless little blog (the consequences of which include opening myself to any number of internet weirdos) is simply not proportional to the rhetorical benefit I might receive by doing same.

    None of you are required to read this website. If you have a problem with my anonymity, you have every right to simply not read my blog.

    As I demonstrated with Dr. Fry and the e-mail situation, I respect others’ privacy as I expect them to respect mine. E-mails to the editor are confidential and will not be shared or published without explicit consent. The comments are for what you wish to say to everyone. E-mail is for what you wish to say to Hugo and myself.

  18. Steven Fry permalink
    November 20, 2010 12:35 am

    Prof. Kinbote,
    If you studied a bit on Mexican ceviche preparation methods vs. US and the other countries methods you mentioned, you would have found that the other countries use light boxes to back-light sashimi and ceviche bound fish for parasitic worms and their cysts buried in the fish muscles. The worms and cysts are then easily removed with a knife to protect the diners. Mexican ceviche nor sashimi prepared in Yucatan does not use these broadly accepted measures to protect their diners, hence, in your list of countries, Mexico uniquely puts their sashimi & ceviche diners at preventable risks that the other countries you named work to eliminate. Again, your clear lack of experience and lack of knowledge in these areas are exposed by your ongoing bad and risky advice to your readers. If you think hookworm and other intestinal parasites are so beneficial, please inoculate yourself and your family with all these latest health wonders, and report back to us the results of you following your own advice. In conclusion, I don’t see how your introducing auto accidents and other unrelated topics and hyperbolic ramblings about hours of disinfecting has any bearing on the utility and effectiveness of a 10 second dilute bleach wipe-down of cockroach contaminated or salmonella contaminated food preparation areas.

    Rather than puffing yourselves up with the latest fad-science items you can pull from Google searches, I think you’d be better off using your public platform to give practical and useful advice on minimizing the very yet preventable real health risks of living in the Tropics. Or, maybe instead stick to commenting on restaurants?
    Dr. Steven M. Fry

  19. Steven Fry permalink
    November 20, 2010 1:14 am

    “E-mails to the editor are confidential and will not be shared or published without explicit consent.” Prof. Charles Kinbote. . . .

    This claim by Prof. Kinbote rings as hollow as much of his and Orange Juice’s scientific and health mis-advice.

    If you carefully read what I wrote in private emails to Prof. Kinbote, I asked that he print my *first* email. I never gave permission for him to publish the other emails, yet, he boldly claims that he and his blog and his editor will maintain confidentiality, and will not share or publish emails without explicit consent. Actions seem to again speak louder than words.

    Prof. Kinbote & Hugo Naranja clearly shows his/their need for anonymity, as his promises and assurances seem similarly as hollow as his scientific claims.
    Dr. Steven M. Fry

    Hint: If you accept Kinbote’s claims that he is not Hugo Naranja, then he clearly had no right to reveal private communications between Hugo and I. But I guess in Kinbote’s world of distortion, misdirection. and misinformation, Kinbote imagines that his readers are not capable of recognizing or calling him on his deceptive yet quite clever prose and empty promises of integrity and professionalism. A gentle reader may also note that what I wrote in presumed privacy and Kinbote-offered confidence, does not seem to have the damning effects the Kinbote hoped for?

    Judge for yourselves whom to believe and whom to trust?
    Clever prose or solid science.

    (Anyone can verify that the e-mail record clearly shows you snapping at me when I asked you on November 18th if your other e-mail was also intended to be published as a comment. Don’t bark at me for not doing something, then write up an indictment of me for doing it. – ed. Kinbote)

  20. November 20, 2010 10:55 am

    FROM STEVEN FRY TO KINBOTE, NOV 20

    Dear Prof Kinbote,
    I read the Eat Merida blog this morning when I sent the message, and my comment was not published with the original article, as I asked that it be presented as a an informational contrast to your fine prose.

    Without notice, you chose to instead create a new platform, where your original incorrect comments could not be directly compared to my observations about your errors. This was a clever trick, changing the venue to a new format of your choosing, and then accusing me of accusing you.

    Based upon your frequent non-factual and often incorrect reporting and also upon your predilections to ramble-on in offerings of distorted and intentionally falsely manipulated ideas, I personally had no interest in slogging through your other offerings, so I read only the original article, looking for my comments. If you chose to create a new stage, at a new venue, and not post notices of your new show, then I can hardly be blamed for not plowing through mounds of your other pretty prose to try to find something else of value,

    It’s clear that you are more interested in verbal jousting and purple prose than in actually helping people, and I simply have better things to do than to spend any more effort in attempting to correct an ongoing parade of errors. It is no wonder that you have chosen Expats Anonymous as your format for expressing your views, because you need a shield of anonymity to cover your obvious lack of.
    Dr. Steven M. Fry

    FROM KINBOTE TO STEVEN FRY, NOV 20

    If you’ll remember the subject of my very first e-mail to you, the contents of which can be verified by yourself at any time either in your e-mail inbox or in the record posted in the comments section of the blog, I stated very explicitly that Hugo would be starting a new post, not only in that first e-mail, but in my second e-mail to you as well. Remember? Remember how you even expressed concern about us not citing your quote? Remember all that? Because it didn’t happen that long ago!

    Further evidence that your outrage over this piece is completely unjustified by anything Hugo wrote, because you seem to have a very difficult time parsing any meaning whatsoever from simple, unambiguous declarative written statements, such as “he is going to write a new post addressing what you have brought up” and “the reason he wanted to make a second post to clarify things is because it will get a greater amount of attention than a comment simply placed at the tail end of an article that most people won’t go back and re-read”. Surely you can’t fault him for starting a new post in the interest of getting more attention from the public, since your stated priority from the very beginning has been to educate the public, right? Surely that can’t be called a “clever trick” to keep your comments from being seen when we have placed your comments front and center on our blog for four days now?

    Kinbote

  21. November 20, 2010 3:50 pm

    FROM STEVEN FRY TO KINBOTE, NOV 20

    You imagine yet more things that do not exist.

    I did not fault you for anything. I simply noted that your posting of a new topic in a new way caused me to not see that you had posted my reply, because I find your prose tiring and your attempts at intellectual discourse are hollow and ultimately uninteresting.

    You may continue to exhaust yourself with hollow claims that kinbote and hugo are different authors, but your personal style, characterized by your unavoidable personal expressions of inaccuracies and distortions, and your consistent mis-characterizations clearly reveal a single hand behind both facades.

    It’s actually either funny or pitiful that you even attempt to maintain the coquettish masks.

    Your hyperbolic adjectives like “staggering” and “outrage” point to pitiful…

    Your attempts take my mostly bored and boring replies and your attempts to inject them with your own misplaced frenetic energy also point to pathetic and pitiful.

    Like some 19’th century oft-hysterical teen-aged dilettante, you continue to create tempests in teapots. P & P….. pathetic and pitiful.

    I have followed your similarly petty, pathetic, and pitiful bantering and badgering on Wikipedia regarding Casa de Catherwood’s hollow attempts to skirt Wikipedia policies on commercial advertising.

    yet more years of evidence of pathetic, pitiful, and petty behaviors that reveal your true character and limited abilities at real intellectual discourse.

    Disengaging now to actually do some productive work vs. the drolleries of noting your latest buzzing…

    later, Dr. Steven M. Fry

  22. November 20, 2010 4:10 pm

    And, as I repeatedly warned him, I will not continue in conversation with Steven Fry on account of his disagreeable tone, so he will receive no further e-mails from me, nor will his comments be approved anywhere on this site unless he can pen them respectfully and truthfully.

  23. Hugo de Naranja permalink
    November 21, 2010 4:41 pm

    Mr. Fry:

    The frequency and tone of your email, your self-contradictory demands, and your strange and baseless accusations, betray a state of mind inhospitable to useful conversation.

    Careful readers can see that you’re dishonest about why you attack me.

    But others might need clear, unmistakable examples to see that your motivations have nothing to do with science, and have so undermined your moral reasoning that you make claims, sometimes repeatedly, that are demonstrably and objectively false:

    STEVEN FRY IS WRONG — NUMBER ONE

    He says,

    “The scientific literature on parasites does speak of potential benefits from minor GI worm infestations by a few relatively harmless species of flat worms found in the United States and Canada…”

    And he says,

    “…your allusions to the potential benefits of some GI parasites appear to have confused innocuous infestations of North of the Border helminths with the Yucatan’s truly harmful nematodes and trematodes…”

    Either a quick Google search, or a thorough review of the scientific literature on this subject, shows that the distribution of the parasites in question is global.

    STEVEN FRY IS WRONG: NUMBER TWO

    He says,

    “…you have made a significant error by mis-applying a little bit of knowledge of US-Canadian parasitology.”

    Casual review of the scientific literature in question shows that research in this area is not confined to U.S. or Canadian parasitology, but is conducted by scientists and institutions in such far-flung locations as Denmark, Australia, China, Ethiopia, Germany, and the Gambia.

    (Were I to be so prissy as to risk being unfair, I’d count Steven Fry’s statement that this research is confined to U.S. and Canadian parasitology as another example of his blatant and deliberate inaccuracy, since any number of disciplines other than parasitology are involved in this research, too.)

    STEVEN FRY IS WRONG: NUMBER THREE

    He says,

    “Even in the USA, there are no ‘good’ or ‘beneficial’ cases of hook worm infestations…”

    A few minutes perusing the literature concerned with “beneficial” parasites clearly reveals a great many references to any number of “good,” “beneficial,” even deliberate, hookworm infection in the USA.

    STEVEN FRY IS WRONG: NUMBER FOUR

    He’s claimed many times that my explicitly personal and explicitly non-professional thoughts and opinions are fact-free and potentially harmful, so it’s rather startling to see him express the following concern:

    “Your broad maxim about the importance of size of dosage of infectious agents can also lead to troubles when eating fish or ceviche or cryptosporid contaminated foods…”

    Only to follow it with this:

    “The reality is that bleach is the best economical solution to disinfection against preventable and serious disease.”

    If Steven Fry is so concerned with cryptosporid contamination, then why does he repeatedly advocate chlorine bleach as the ideal disinfectant when it is widely known, and has been repeatedly demonstrated that CRYPTOSPORIDS ARE RESISTANT TO CHLORINE BLEACH.

    The above is, to me, extraordinary.

    STEVEN FRY IS WRONG: NUMBER FIVE

    He says,

    “If you studied a bit on Mexican ceviche preparation methods vs. US and the other countries methods you mentioned, you would have found that the other countries use light boxes to back-light sashimi and ceviche bound fish for parasitic worms and their cysts buried in the fish muscles. The worms and cysts are then easily removed with a knife to protect the diners.”

    I have no idea what Steven Fry means by “other countries,” but the U.S. and Japan do not use “light boxes” to rid fish of parasites. Internationally trusted and well-respected experts on the subject, such as the University of California at Davis, clearly recommend “freez[ing] the fish to an internal temperature of -4°F for at least 7 days to kill any parasites that may be present,” with the caveat that, “Home freezers may not be cold enough to kill the parasites.”

    And also add that, “Canada’s Health Protection Branch recommends using only commercially frozen fish in raw fish dishes because home freezers will not kill the parasites. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends using fish frozen commercially for 7 days at -10°F or 15 hours at -31°F for raw fish dishes.”

    STEVEN FRY IS WRONG: NUMBER SIX

    He says,

    “The worms and cysts are then easily removed with a knife to protect the diners.”

    The use light or “light boxes,” otherwise known as “candling,” to remove parasites from fish is ineffective and hazardous.

    The University of California at Davis states that, “Good handling practices on-board fishing vessels and in processing plants minimize nematode infestation. Many seafood processors inspect seafood fillets of species likely to contain parasites. This process called candling involves examining fish fillets over lights. Candling detects surface parasites. Unfortunately, they cannot always see parasites embedded deep in thick fillets or in dark tissue.”

    STEVEN FRY IS WRONG: NUMBER SEVEN

    He says,

    “Mexico uniquely puts their sashimi and ceviche diners at preventable risks that the other countries you named work to eliminate. Again, your clear lack of experience and lack of knowledge in these areas are exposed by your ongoing bad and risky advice to your readers…”

    It’s extremely odd that Steven Fry can make such an outrageous claim that “Mexico uniquely puts their sashimi and ceviche diners at preventable risks,” and then characterize what I’ve said as “bad and risky,” when there are innumerable examples that the unsafe handling and consumption of raw seafood occurs in many countries other than Mexico.

    Cholera epidemics in Peru, Ecuador, and elsewhere in Latin America have been linked directly to the consumption of raw seafood contaminated with sewage. These instances are so famous, and were so widely publicized, that a quick Google search will prove their relevance and my veracity.

    STEVEN FRY IS WRONG: BUT I’VE NOT THE STOMACH TO CONTINUE

    I could offer other examples of Steven Fry’s inaccuracies and falsehoods.

    But there’s something highly distasteful to me about spending my time and energy to discredit someone whose internal life is such that he’s willing to forward his peculiar animosity toward me at the expense of demonstrable, objective truth.

    I’ve never suggested or advocated that people not take reasonable precautions when cleaning their kitchens or eating for outside their home.

    I have clearly stated that I believe that obsessive, zealous cleanliness is a huge waste of time. And that people overwhelmed by the risks posed by eating in the tropics might consider the risks posed by driving in that part of the world. And I used a common literary device known as “irony” to underscore my points when I mentioned that current peer-reviewed scientific research has demonstrated that infection with certain parasites can be a safe and effective means of treating a great many common diseases and disorders.

    Steven Fry says,

    “I do believe in hand washing before eating, hand washing after touching lots of things in public places, and diluted bleach solutions for disinfecting commonly touched surfaces like door knobs, computer keyboards, light switches, faucet handles, and car steering wheels…”

    My mind reels at the idea of a life spent swabbing down door knobs, computer keyboards, light switches, and, may God help us all, car steering wheels, with a diluted bleach solution.

    Steven Fry never offers inarguable scientific proof that a life spent maintaining, say, a germ-free steering wheel is healthier than a life spent doing a lot of things other than scrubbing steering wheels with bleach.

    But even if there were solid scientific evidence for spending my time disinfecting light switches or computer keyboards or door knobs or, may God help us all, steering wheels, this would be a life that I could not, and would not, choose to live.

  24. November 21, 2010 7:55 pm

    Yeah, the steering wheel thing made me guffaw. While there may very well be ample amounts of bacteria on steering wheels, I don’t think many people in this world swab their steering wheel with bleach, nor do I think many get violently ill because of it.

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