This is a cautionary tale for those of us who at times — because of our fast-paced 24/7 environment — either forget our common sense or attempt to take unnecessary risks and shortcuts.
A story was just re-released involving the tragic and untimely death of a young college student in 2008.
The student residing in Belgium identified only as A.J., became violently ill after eating leftover spaghetti and hours later he was dead.
The report published in 2011 by NCBI revisits the dreadful death in a video posted on January 21st by Dr. Barnard on his popular YouTube Channel, in which he discusses the October 2008 death of the 20-year-old student.
According to the initial report published in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology, “A.J.,” became sick after eating spaghetti and tomato sauce that had been prepared five days earlier.
However, the food was left un-refrigerated for much of that time, sitting on a countertop in his kitchen.
Dr. Bernard emphasized “A.J.,” had a poor knowledge of hygiene and the risks associated with leaving un-refrigerated foods out for long periods of time.
The report also contends that “A.J.,” would prepare all his meals on a Sunday for the following week ahead, in an attempt to save both time and money. He would boil a large batch of pasta, and then put it into a Tupperware container, he would then eat portions of the pasta through the week, adding tomato sauce, heating and reheating the pasta as needed.
The report doesn’t make clear if “A.J.,” usually left boiled pasta un-refrigerated on the kitchen countertop for any prolonged period of time. However, in this instance the pasta laid on the kitchen countertop at room temperature for almost a week, when “A.J.,” reheated the pasta and began eating it.
The report goes on to chronicle what transpired after he ate the pasta; “A.J. “left home for his sports activities, but he returned 30 minutes later because of a headache, abdominal pain, and nausea. At his arrival, he vomited profusely for several hours and at midnight had two episodes of watery diarrhea.”
The report continues, “A.J.,” took no medication and only consumed water after feeling sick.” The report also notes he fell asleep around midnight and likely died at around 4 a.m., about 10-hours after he ate the pasta. However, it wasn’t until midmorning around 11 a.m. that his parents found him unconscious and unresponsive.
An autopsy was performed on “A.J., along with testing both the pasta and the pasta sauce found liver necrosis, acute pancreatitis, and perhaps the link that tied “A.J.,” death to the pasta, Bacillus cereus, a bacteria known for causing “fried rice syndrome,” or toxic food poisoning-like symptoms associated with this type of rare death.
Dr. Bernard explained at the time, “Typically, food poisoning just causes stomach inflammation, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, it doesn’t typically cause acute liver failure, and even worse, we can’t find out which bacteria is causing the problem because culturing it would take days — days A.J. doesn’t have because his liver is quickly shutting down.”
Adding that A.J.’s death is not a “typical” food poisoning case, although other fatalities have been documented before, so it’s important to be wary of food left out without refrigeration, or anything that smells odd.”
The report’s authors reached a similar conclusion, stating “Although we cannot incriminate B cereus as the direct and unique cause of death, the present case illustrates the severity of the emetic and diarrheal syndromes and the importance of adequate refrigeration of prepared food.”
The report concluded. “Because the emetic toxin is preformed in food and is not inactivated by heat treatment, it is important to prevent B. cereus growth and its cereulide production during storage.”
The cautionary tale stated at the beginning of this tragic story is that “A.J.” in all probability would be alive today if he simply practiced a little common sense…food left un-refrigerated for long periods of time, spoil.