We all know that you should never eat something that has been in the fridge for a long time. But what if you eat pasta already cooked days ago? Scientists agree that in certain cases, this food can be deadly.
In 2003, five children of a family fell sick after having pasta salad that had been kept in the freeze for four days. The children began to vomit and were to the emergency department of a local hospital. Two of them were even intubated and hooked up to ventilators.
However, the youngest girl passed away 13 hours later. Later, doctors found the B.cereus bacteria not only in the little girl’s abdomen but also in her spleen. She also had extensive coagulation and microvascular necrosis in her liver.
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These bacteria live in soil, animals, insects, dust, and plants, and use nutrients from food — such as rice, dairy, spices, dry foods, and vegetables — to reproduce. Although it is often behind poisonings, it usually presents mild symptoms.
However, “A fatal case due to liver failure after the consumption of pasta salad is described and demonstrates the possible severity of the emetic syndrome”, the authors of the study affirm.
Although it is an extremely rare case, it is not the only one. Thus, in 2008, a young Belgian died after eating the pasta he had prepared five days earlier. The young man kept the plate in the kitchen, at room temperature. About half an hour after eating the pasta – which he heated in the microwave – he felt nauseous, headaches, and stomach aches. He vomited for several hours, after which he fell asleep but never woke up. It was the young man’s parents who found him dead the next morning.
Scientists from several countries also reported other similar cases, such as the death of a teenager after eating Chinese noodles or the tragic story of a young man who developed acute gastroenteritis half an hour after eating spaghetti prepared four days earlier. He died of liver failure and rhabdomyolysis. The autopsy showed that he also had high concentrations of B.cereus toxins in his liver and in his bile.
Immunologist Anukriti Mathur, from the Australian National University, cautions that “it is important to note that B.cereus can cause severe and life-threatening conditions, such as sepsis, in immunosuppressed people, children, the elderly and pregnant women.”
At the same time, it does not pose a danger to most people.
This bacterium produces several toxins, including the so-called emetic toxin, which can withstand temperatures of more than 120 degrees for 90 minutes. Our immune system detects the emitted toxins, which leads to an inflammatory response. Toxins — in particular, BL hemolysin — poke holes in cells, causing them to become inflamed and die.
But how can you prevent poisoning? The study authors advise storing food in the refrigerator and washing your hands well. Heating food also removes most of the bacteria and their toxins, they stress.