To my understanding, spoiled food is not supposed to be consumed even after cooking it, since the heat may eradicate germs, but their toxines may be heat-resistant and thus still active. However, there are some purification tablets which are marketed as making spoiled water potable, apparently containing chlorine or iodine usually. Such tablets seem to be recommended also for water purification by the WHO. In the description of such tablets, their effect on toxines is never mentioned, and I wonder why toxines surviving the eradication of germs seem to be no problem here. Do water borne germs usually not synthesize toxines, or to a much lesser extent than food borne pathogens? Or do such tablets somehow inactivate their toxines?

  • $\begingroup$ I've never heard anyone refer to water as spoiled. But water doesn't provide a lot of materials/nutrients from which to produce toxins, I assume. It's difficult to metabolize furiously in plain water. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Dec 1, 2021 at 2:02
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Water really doesn't "spoil". The various purification methods are to kill microorganisms living in the water, which if ingested could reproduce and cause illness. There are usually not significant amounts of toxins in water. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Dec 1, 2021 at 3:40
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you both for your comments. I see now that "spoiled" is not the correct term in water. I would have assumed that a body of water (let's say a pond) would still be rich in nutrients, but it seems plausible that nutrient density is low in comparison to items of food, and therefore very low toxin synthesis may occur even in a static body of water. $\endgroup$ Dec 1, 2021 at 15:16
  • $\begingroup$ Water can be more dangerous than you know. Dogs swimming in ponds or lakes with blooms of cyanobacteria have died within minutes. Chlorine or iodine wouldn't affect that water's toxicity. There are plenty of toxins in water, but they tend to harm marine organisms that accumulate them and the animals that eat them. $\endgroup$ Dec 1, 2021 at 20:08
  • $\begingroup$ @EpicBroccoli Yeah, water isn't like...agar or fruit juice. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Dec 2, 2021 at 4:04

1 Answer 1


To some extent you can eat heated spoiled food (the point of cooking really). I recall a concentration camp in France where inmates received sporadically tuberculosis infected dead cows, which they ate following a 24h boiling in water. Water is quite often contaminated but more rarely infected in the sense of supporting active multiplication of pathogens (with notable exceptions in cases of flooding with cholera epidemics for instance). In addition on most of the chlorine tablets it is specified it should only be used on clear water (filtered or not, but no turbid water).


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