Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Humans 0, Germs 1,189, Radioactivity favored

The war against dangerous microbes hasn’t been going well for the human side. Thirty-nine people were reportedly sickened by bacteria linked to New York-area Taco Bell restaurants, 900 were struck by a viral contamination traced to the famed Dinosaur barbecue outlet in Syracuse, N.Y., and at least 250 customers and employees of an Applebee’s in Michigan have been afflicted with the gastrointestinal maladies of a norovirus infection, which has yet to be contained there. And that’s all in the last few weeks.

There’s no consolation there even for the hardest-hearted competitors, since any place can be tarred with suspicions if one of its kind is implicated in an outbreak. Besides, who wants to best a rival in that fashion?

But from Great Britain comes an astounding indication that consumers may run hot or cold on being poisoned. A Polish restaurant in the city of Sheffield is doing killer business because of its name: The Polonium. That moniker was little more than a curiosity (it was the name of the properietor’s Polish folk band) until cold-war spy and Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned with polonium-210, a radioactive isotope. Since he died, and left a compelling mystery as to why he was poisoned and by whom, The Polonium has been enjoying an upsurge in business.

Ditto, reportedly, for outlets of the sushi chain whose London unit was where the polonium-210 may have been slipped into Litvinenko’s food. Traces of the radioactive material have been founded in that branch of Itsu, but it hasn’t kept customers away, according to British press reports.

Who’d have thought a poisoning could be a traffic generator?

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