The death of a 20 year-old Belgium student who ate leftover pasta has gotten attention this week from a report published in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology.
“A.J” had eaten spaghetti and tomato sauce that was prepared 5 days earlier and left at room temperature. Within 30 minutes he began feeling ill with abdominal pain, headache and nausea and vomiting. Later that evening he had diarrhea and when his parents went to check on him the following morning he was found dead.
A post-mortem exam suspected he passed away within hours at approximately 4 am as a result of Bacillus cereus poisoning.
Dr. Bernard on a YouTube video highlighting the case report states he went into acute liver failure.
B. cereus bacteria reproduce quickly at room temperature and can produce an emetic toxin that causes illness within 30 minutes.
Leftover food safety
To help avoid food poisoning, the USDA recommends the following:
- Be aware of the “Danger Zone” in which bacteria can grow on food between the temperatures of 40 – 140 degrees F.
- Refrigerate food within 2 hours, one hour if outside temperature is above 90 degrees.
- Perishables should be kept refrigerated at 40 degrees F or colder
- Wrap leftovers thoroughly to retain moisture and keep other bacteria out.
- Throw out leftovers after 3-4 days. Food can be safely frozen for 3-4 months.
- Cook food thoroughly. Red meat to 145 degree F, Ground meat to 160 degree F and poultry to 165 degree F.
- Reheat food to 165 degrees.
- Cool food quickly so food doesn’t stay hot in the refrigerator cultivating more bacteria. Divide food up into smaller containers to allow a speedier cool.
- When in doubt throw it out.
Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP is a nationally syndicated radio personality on GCN Network, KDWN, and iHeart Radio.