Salmonella, cloacas, Crazy Jane

Urban myths can be fun, funny, horrifying, ridiculous. Or in some cases just stupid

I’m heartily sick of hearing and reading statements, sometimes from public health authorities attributing Salmonella infection to consumption of raw eggs, in mayonnaise or uncooked cake mix, for instance.

There is no evidence that Salmonella bacteria are present in eggs. The organism is found in chicken faeces, and hence may, indeed, be present on eggshells, but not in the egg itself. Thus any outbreak associated with eggs is due to the handling of unwashed eggs, failure to wash hands, or both.

Infection is far more likely to be due to poor hygiene in the handling of raw chicken meat, which invariably contains Salmonella, such as not washing the cutting board before preparing salad vegetables, or placing cooked chicken back into the bowl in which it was marinated.

How does Salmonella come to be on eggshells?

The answer is anatomical. Chickens, like all birds, some fish, reptiles and platypuses, have a single orifice, called a cloaca, to pass urine and faeces, for intercourse and also to lay eggs, which is sort of efficient, though unsanitary and sort of unromantic.

Fish, birds, reptiles have things called cloacas,
To shit, piss and fuck! Any takers?
One all-purpose hole!
Do they think? Have a soul?
Do you think they give thanks to their makers?

A trifle vulgar perhaps, and a bit abstruse, but then human anatomy is not so far removed from that of our lower order evolutionary cousins.

As William Butler Yeats says in “Crazy Jane Talks With The Bishop”

‘A woman can be proud and stiff
When on love intent;
But Love has pitched his mansion in
The place of excrement;’

We humans are basically rather self-important apes. To be humbled a little by being reminded of our commonality with other animal species makes more manifest our relationship with, and our dependence upon this small planet and the totality of nature.


One thought on “Salmonella, cloacas, Crazy Jane

  1. Thanks for this Peter – however some clarification please. We occasionally receive eggs from some friends who have chickens. These eggs oft have some reminders of the passage they took into the fresh air. We dutifully wash these off before use. Is this sufficient to remove any salmonella? Hopefully disinfectant is not required!

    Your advice would be appreciated. ____________________________ Diana and Ernie

    Date: Sun, 6 Mar 2016 04:25:56 +0000 To:

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