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
JAN 21, 2020
Space & Astronomy
JAN 21, 2020
Here's Why SpaceX Blew Up a Falcon 9 Rocket in Mid-Air
SpaceX completed a substantial milestone for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program this week, an undertaking that involved one of the commercial space compa...
JAN 23, 2020
Health & Medicine
JAN 23, 2020
Yes, Stress Can Turn Your Hair Gray
Stress and gray hair have always been closely associated, and now, scientists from Harvard have discovered the physiological mechanism that validates this...
JAN 28, 2020
Plants & Animals
JAN 28, 2020
A Slug Does All it Can to Defend Against Hungry Ants
Slugs are slow, and this makes them easy targets for predators however big or small they might be. Here, we see that a slug has been spotted by a hungry co...
FEB 21, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
FEB 21, 2020
Diagnosing COVID-19
Diagnosing coronavirus is done through next-generation sequencing, real-time RT-PCR tests, cell culture, and electron miscopy. For patients, that translate...
MAR 13, 2020
Cardiology
MAR 13, 2020
Heart Cancer, A Rarity
Cardiac tumors are generally considered rare, happening in only one in 500 cardiac surgery cases. These growths are often benign and occur on the non-cardi...
MAR 31, 2020
Space & Astronomy
MAR 31, 2020
Can Viruses Survive in Outer Space?
Outer space is often depicted as a harsh environment. It’s effectively an airless vacuum, and anything residing there would be subjected to high amou...
Loading Comments...