SEP 29, 2017 3:28 PM PDT

A Fly on Your Food is Far More Disgusting than You Thought

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

It's happened to all of us - a housefly finds itself around the dinner table, and for a fraction of a second, it lands on the most delicious dish of all. We would normally shoo away the fly and continue dinner as usual. But what microscopic monstrosities happen when a fly lands on the food?

Common houseflies have no teeth. To eat, they slurp up their foods like soup. But houseflies are not known for their discriminate tastes - they eat anything and everything. So if a housefly lands on solid food, it vomits up saliva to liquefy the food for them to drink it.

The fly's eat-all policy means also feasting on rotting garbage and poop. So even for the fraction of a second that the fly stays on our food, the millions of microbes on its body will transfer to our plate.

In the impossible scenario that the housefly hasn't had any disgusting feasts, it will still deposit bacteria ... from its own poop. Yes, flies are excellent multitaskers, vomiting, eating, and pooping, at the same time (on our food).

Despite the mountain of disgustingness surrounding flies, experts say you don't have to chuck away any food touched by a fly. "In most instances, spotting a fly on your food doesn't mean you need to throw it out," said Cameron Webb, a medical entomologist at the University of Sydney. "A single touchdown is unlikely to trigger a chain reaction leading to illness for the average healthy person."

But don't let it linger on your food! "The more time passes," Webb notes, "the greater the chance of pathogens left behind by the flies growing and multiplying on our food. That's when health risks increase."
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
NOV 06, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
The Most Powerful X-ray Source On Earth
NOV 06, 2020
The Most Powerful X-ray Source On Earth
Located inside the Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the Z Pulsed Power Facility (or Z Machine) i ...
DEC 03, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
3-D Printed, Realistic Heart Model for Training Future Physicians
DEC 03, 2020
3-D Printed, Realistic Heart Model for Training Future Physicians
Building a realistic tissue model is critical for training young physicians and surgeons, and yet challenging due to the ...
JAN 04, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Did Intelligent Civilizations Roam Our Galaxy 5 Billion Years Ago?
JAN 04, 2021
Did Intelligent Civilizations Roam Our Galaxy 5 Billion Years Ago?
Researchers have found that there were likely many intelligent alien civilizations sprawled across our galaxy billions o ...
FEB 20, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Mars Perseverance Rover Gets Ready to Find Life on Mars
FEB 20, 2021
Mars Perseverance Rover Gets Ready to Find Life on Mars
NASA scientists have confirmed that their car-sized Perseverance Mars rover is 'healthy' following its arrival o ...
MAR 26, 2021
Earth & The Environment
Iconic Bald Eagles are Thriving
MAR 26, 2021
Iconic Bald Eagles are Thriving
Once dangerously on the brink of extinction, bald eagle populations are thriving throughout the lower 48 states of the U ...
JUL 23, 2021
Neuroscience
Does the Rise of Neurotech Spell the End of Humanity as We Know it?
JUL 23, 2021
Does the Rise of Neurotech Spell the End of Humanity as We Know it?
Researchers from Imperial College London have written an overview of currently available commercial brain-computer inter ...
Loading Comments...