How filthy are flies?

It’s heading into full-blown fly season, so many of you will be seeing more and more of the nasty little blighters.

And while ‘blowies’ and house flies are an accepted part of an Australian summer, simply shooing them away from your food may not be enough.

In fact, after reading this, you may never again eat food that’s had a fly on it.

A new study has revealed just how filthy flies really are, with researchers discovering that they carry a lot more bacteria than initially thought – to the point where just a second of contact with food could be enough to make you ghastly ill.

Researchers from Penn State University’s Eberly College of Science, Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University and the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro studied 116 flies.

Their studies showed that, because houseflies and blowflies are usually the first organisms to arrive on carcasses, decaying matter and faeces on which they feed, breed, and lay eggs, they carry harmful bacteria such as e-coli, salmonella and pathogens that cause a range of other diseases and infections.

Houseflies can carry up to 351 types of bacteria, while blowflies carry around 316. These include germs responsible for urinary tract infections, stomach ulcers, sepsis, and intestinal diseases.

The research showed that fly legs and wings carry the most microbial matter and with it the transmission of bacteria from dead and decaying matter to your food or other surfaces.

“People had some notion that there were pathogens that were carried by flies but had no idea of the extent to which this is true and the extent to which they are transferred,” said Penn State University Professor Donald Bryant.

“We believe that this may show a mechanism for pathogen transmission that has been overlooked by public health officials.

“It will really make you think twice about eating that potato salad that’s been sitting out at your next picnic.

“It might be better to have that picnic in the woods, far away from urban environments, not a central park.”

So, the next time a fly lands on your food, think twice about your next bite.

Do you care about flies on your food? Will this make you think twice about eating food that’s had flies on it? Or do you think it builds a stronger immune system?

Related articles:
Aussies will eat anything
Is mouldy food safe to eat?
10 mistakes that can make you sick

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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