Can Metal Be Eaten? The Weird Ways That Metal Is Consumed

Can Metal Be Eaten? The Weird Ways That Metal Is Consumed

15th July 2020

Most of us would never think of tasting a bit of metal. Yet, you might be surprised at the number of ways that metallic objects have been consumed by people, animals and even bacteria.

Monsieur Mangetout Once Ate an Airplane

Michael Lotito was still a teenager when his incredible eating habits brought him to public attention. Performing as Monsieur Mangetout (Mr Eat It All), Lotito stunned the world with his ravenous appetite for frankly inedible things.

Amongst his most spectacular achievements was the time he ate a Cessna 150 airplane. He was also known to gobble down bikes, TVs and cars. The plane was his greatest feat though, and it took him just a couple of years to polish off all of the parts.

He is in the Guinness Book of Records as having the strangest known diet of any human. It is widely believed that he even ate the brass plaque that was awarded to him for this record.

No one should attempt to follow Monsieur Mangetout’s lead, as doctors believed that this unusually thick stomach lining and powerful digestive juices allowed him to eat metal and glass without it harming him. Also, tin, iron and most CE marked fabrications aren’t as easily consumed.

The Bacteria That Consumes Metal

Scientists have long believed that there could be types of bacteria that consume metals. However, they have only recently confirmed this fact.

Microbiologists at Caltech discovered bacteria that are able to feed on manganese, using this mineral as their source of energy. Jared Leadbetter is professor of environmental microbiology at Caltech, and worked with postdoctoral scholar Hang Yu to explain the discovery in the journal Nature.

They made the crucial breakthrough completely by chance, when a dirty glass jar with traces of manganese was left in the office for several months while Leadbetter was off-site.

When he returned, the jar was coated with a dark material made of oxidised manganese that had been created by the bacteria. He stated that it appeared that the bacteria had come from the tap water in the jar.

Cows Can Get Hardware Disease By Eating Metal

If you have never heard of it before, you might think that hardware disease is some sort of virus that affects computers. Yet, it is actually a problem that can affect cows that eat metal. The correct, scientific name for it is bovine traumatic reticuloperitonitis.

It is often caused when the animal eats a sharp piece of metal, causing a very nasty injury or irritation. The problem is caused by the fact that cows don’t take too much care of whether they swallow things that can be chewed or not, leading to them ingesting things like nails and wire.

Thankfully, there is a solution and it involves a magnet. Cow magnets are usually ring-shaped with a stainless steel core. The animal swallows the magnet at about a year old, and it then stays in its body for the rest of its life, attracting metal objects so that they can’t become lodged in dangerous area of its body.