Doctor explains how student died after eating pasta that was left out for 5 days
In a video posted on Jan. 21, Dr. Bernard, who identifies himself as a licensed medical provider based in the U.S., discusses the October 2008 death of a 20-year-old student in Belgium identified only as "A.J."
A.J. became sick after reheating and consuming spaghetti and tomato sauce he made five days earlier and stored at room temperature, according to the initial report published in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology.
About a half an hour after consuming the reheated pasta, A.J. began complaining of headaches, abdominal pain and nausea before experiencing gas, episodes of diarrhea and intense vomiting. Instead of seeking medical attention, the student went to bed around midnight to try and sleep off his symptoms.
When A.J. did not wake up for class by 11 a.m. the next day, his parents went to check on him, where they found him dead in his bed. His time of death was later ruled to be around 4:00 a.m., approximately 10 hours after he ingested the meal.
An autopsy performed on A.J.'s body revealed he died of liver necrosis and acute pancreatitis. Fecal swabs taken postmortem revealed the presence of Bacillus cereus, a well-known food-borne pathogen that produces toxins, in his system.
Samples of the student's leftovers sent to the National Reference Laboratory for Food-borne Outbreaks (NRLFO) for analysis also revealed a significant presence of B. cereus.
Although B. cereus is associated mainly with food poisoning, it is being increasingly reported to be a cause of serious and potentially fatal non-gastrointestinal-tract infections, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
While Dr. Bernard said that the severity of A.J.'s case is not "typical," it is still important to practice proper food storage techniques to avoid any incidents.
The United States Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) recommends refrigerating perishable food items within two hours of preparations. The agency urges consumers to check the temperature of their refrigerators and freezers to ensure food is kept at 40F or below, or 0F or below for frozen items.
Fresh poultry, fish and ground meats should be eaten or frozen two days after cooking, and beef, veal, lamb or pork, within three to five days.
For the FSIS's full list of food storage recommendations, click here.