probable that these substances just mentioned and others of similar nature often, when apparently good, contain poisonous matter in small quantities, which produces in human beings, when those foods are eaten, grave digestive disturbances. Should the eating of such food be continued for a length of time, or the amount of poisonous matter be large, serious results of illness, or even death, may follow. Instances are on record of fatal cases of poisoning caused by eating oysters too long out of the shell, lobsters not fresh, and other easily putrescible substances.
The object of the bacteriological study of food is not alone to prevent the use of actually poisonous materials, but also to prevent the use of those which are not absolutely good.
Perfect digestion, perfect assimilation, and as a consequence healthful blood can not result from the use of questionable food. If we attempt to consider what constitutes a healthy condition of body we find a very complex subject before us: constitutional peculiarities, manner of dress, surroundings, air, occupation, climate, etc., as well as food, all influence physical development. We find the answer involves too many points to be given simply and directly, but one very essential thing to do certainly lies in the direction of food. The nutritive material for replenishing the blood is made from the food we eat and the air we breathe; it, therefore, is entirely reasonable to claim that the condition of the air breathed and the preparation of the food eaten are of great importance.
Food should be wholesome in itself, prepared in exquisitely clean surroundings by neat hands, and cooked with intelligence. Food prepared by slovenly cooks in slovenly places not only is not aesthetically acceptable, but is neither palatable nor wholesome, and often contains ptomaines, toxines, or other poisonous matter the results of changes of a dangerous character, or it may be contaminated with the bacteria of disease. When we know that micro-organisms are the primary cause of many kinds of fermentation, that all forms of food are excellent material for them upon which to thrive, that instances are on record in which poisons have been isolated from food which has caused sickness, it may be repeated that it is entirely possible that food kept in questionable places and prepared in an uncleanly manner does often contain that which is positively injurious to health.
It is evident that one of the first considerations of a thoughtful and intelligent housekeeper toward securing one condition at least of good health should be absolute cleanliness in all things—
- Ptomaines are certain crystallizable substances formed by the growth of bacteria. They are often but not always poisonous. Toxines are substances also produced by the growth of bacteria, but of a different nature from ptomaines; they are always poisonous.