So Julie and I need help. We like eating peoples’ leftovers. Nothing else brings us as much joy in life. But while we are enjoying our discarded half plates of chicken tikka masala donated by unknowing mall patrons, off to buy some shoes or whatever people do at malls, we are being bombarded from warning from concerned friends and family. “You are going to get diseases! :O,” my uncle, Paul, informs me, adding that exact face at the end of his statement for dramatic effect. I heard whispers that Julie’s family has threatened to disown her for her sickeningly sustainable dumpster diving addiction.

Are these kind souls saving us from killing ourselves with that infected, greatly yearned for half-filled cup of Columbus mocha? Or are we being subjected to more Malthusianesque ramblings brought on due to overblown perceptions of the rates of herpes, mononucleosis, the common cold, and flu?

I’d LOVE to see some research that systematically compares the safety of:

  • conventional industrial grocery store food
  • restaurant food
  • takeaway food
  • hunted/gathered food
  • random peoples’ leftovers
  • friends’ leftovers
  • grocery store dumpster stashes
  • make out session with rando in the club that you don’t remember until your friend tells you the next day

Was that Indian guy mean mugging Julie and I today as I presented that tray of plates partially filled with succulent pumpkin and a plump chicken carcass because he thinks he’s more royal than us due to his choice to pay money for his food? How closely correlated are peoples’ disgust with eating someone’s meal remnants and their general lack of respect for other citizens of this wonderful world?


2 thoughts on “Calculated Disease Risk

  1. Hi Zach

    Nice to meet in Queenstown

    Re Health of Consumers of Left Overs/Scavenged Food.

    Simple – healthy food, healthy microbes, healthy humans – the way to prevent food poisoning.

    Like everything there is not only one issue here. Human metabolism has not changed THAT much over the 13-10 centuries that some groups have been farming. But what humans HAVE done is change their environment away from hunting and gathering high nutrient food.

    As an energy conserving co-adaptation to having a constant energy brain-drain (our large brains power through a lot of energy – 25% of our daily use on average for a slim adults – >85% for a human new born!) our nomadic ancestors had a strong drive to get high energy food. BUT they also adapted a cell protection system – to ramp-up and amplify an set of anti-oxidant, detoxifying and cell repair pathways by becoming dependent on myriads of complex food chemicals. The key sensor complex (NRF2 transcriptor system) reacts to naturally slightly pro-oxidant, toxic or irritating stimuli, such as chemicals plants make to defend themselves from harmful organisms (eg resveratrol made by peanuts, grapes etc when attacked by yeasts). Thousands of these chemicals modulate this cell protection system – depends on the variable human genes and the numbers and types in the food. In fact, it looks like this systems is so effective at neutralising lots of toxins and stabilising the high turn-over immune cells they have become very effective at protecting from infection, and don’t tend to replicate abnormally, get out of control and turn cancerous. With long lived cells this system is such a good housekeeper in the face of high energy turnover and so efficient that humans live a long time, even though large, and warm blooded (plus with luck and good ‘lifestyle’).

    Thus food poisoning tends to happen to not very healthy people (and their gut microbes which have poor defenses) , who are eating ultra-high-processed, high energy, chemically adulterated food that microbial pathogens love. Salmonella and B. cereus in centrally overweight humans eating ‘battery’ chicken products with white rice must be the classic.

    So the trick for you, Zach and co, is to only eat HEALTHY type food leftovers, or at least plenty of them, so that you stay healthy and ward off any pathogenic (bad) microbes that belong the people who had the first ‘bite of the cherry’. Develop the taste for as much wild/heritage type whole food as possible with no-low processed, additive-laden food – same message to all other people. Fresh, rinsed, cooked road kill, fits the bill. So, no hanging around fast food chain-reaction joints but run around, find and eat traditional and local wild foods, when possible. Minimise hyper-hygiene chemicals (hand wipes etc) as they up-set your protective skin, mouth and gut microbes.

    Use your nose for it’s original purpose – ‘does that food smell ‘off’- if so also don’t eat.

    Enjoy healthy whole food from what ever plate you find and you should be good – go for it.

    Cheers @

    PS. Of course high nutrient food can be grown much more sustainably, nourish humans, maintain biodiversity, fix carbon on mixed eco-farms, with low ‘input’ of fertilisers and pesticides, using smart technologies and a permaculture method.


    1. Thanks for the in depth analysis! Yes, I forgot to mention in the original post that nutritional quality is still a top priority. I usually have a list of foods that aren’t worth my time. Anything based on sugar, processed grains, or industrial oils are a no-go as well as anything fried. Mostly stick to veggies and meat! I think Diane thought that I was hanging out at carnivals eating doughnuts for all my food hah.
      Glad to have met and chatted with you and I hope we cross paths in the future!


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