Student Dies The Morning After Eating Spaghetti That Was Left Out For Five Days

As much as we normally know not to mess around with food that looks iffy, it's also fair to say that we've all had a moment or two where we ended up gambling on some leftovers.

And as long as it tastes OK, it's hard to see much wrong with eating them in the moment. None of us want to spend the evening on the toilet but that's not bad as a worst-case scenario, right?

Unfortunately, one case from Belgium shows that this is far from the worst thing that can happen if those leftovers aren't properly stored. Although it involves some pretty extreme circumstances, they're still not outside the realm of possibility.

On October 1, 2008, a 20-year-old student in Brussels came home after school for something to eat before going out to play sports.

According to an article published in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology, he eventually microwaved some leftover spaghetti and tomato sauce that had been made five days earlier.

It's worth clarifying that it wasn't refrigerated in that time, but rather left out at room temperature for five days.

About a half hour after the student left, he was compelled to return home after experiencing abdomnial pains, headaches, and nausea.

As the article outlined, he spent the next several hours vomiting and would experience two bouts of diarrhea at around midnight.

He had stayed hydrated that evening and went to bed shortly after the diarrhea struck.

By 11:00 am the next morning, his parents would find him dead in his bedroom.

Although an autopsy was conducted on his body, there was enough of a delay before it took palce to render the results inconclusive.

Still, the autopsy revealed some mild damage to his liver, which CDC epidemiologist Dr. Sam Crowe said can be a rare effect of food poisoning from the bacterium Bacillus cereus.

As he told USA Today, "The toxin attacks the liver and causes a pretty serious condition, which can cause the liver to stop working."

At first, it wasn't clear whether this was what had killed the student due to his low levels of liver damage and the low density of the bacteria found in samples of his body.

However, when researchers analyzed the pasta itself, they found a high density of the toxin B. cereus produces, known as cereulide.

As they explained, it's the temperature of the breeding ground for this bacteria strain that influences how much of the toxin is produced rather than bacteria density.

So even a relatively small number of bacteria can produce a large amount of cereulide under the right conditions, such as cooked pasta that was left at room temperature for several days.

With that in mind, it's likely that the student's death occurred as a result of eating the contaminated leftovers.

Although this case involved pasta, *Bacillus cereus* is also responsible for a type of food poisoning known as "fried rice syndrome."

According to USA Today, this is because it only takes hours for a similar contamination to happen after rice is cooked.

To prevent this kind of poisoning, Dr. Crowe advises either frying or refrigerating rice within two hours of boiling it and storing it in small, shallow containers. The smaller the containers, the quicker it can cool and the less bacteria is likely to form in it.

If you do find yourself feeling sick after eating leftover rice, rest and rehydration are generally the best ways to deal with it but medical attention should be sought if you're still sick after 24 hours.

While the tragic reality is that the student didn't have that long before it was too late, that can be attributed to how his pasta was stored and for how long.

h/t: Journal of Clinical Microbiology, USA Today

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