Highway to the danger zone.
December 15, 2014 12:51 PM   Subscribe

1 in 6 Americans become sick from foodborne illness each year, and like a norovirus infection, the blame is easy to spread around. Where does foodborne illness happen, and does it matter? Doug Powell of Barfblog (previously) notes that peer reviewed studies claim in-home food safety failures account for anywhere from 15 to 90% of food poisoning cases, which is enough variance to make anyone shrug. But what do we really know when it comes to foodborne illness? Read on for a stomach-turning romp through what food safety research tells us about a question as old as Ask Metafilter.

First, a backgrounder. Foodborne illness comes in two basic categories:
  • infection - you can get sick from organisms that infect you (bacteria, viruses, parasites), or from
  • intoxication - which is essentially mild to severe poisoning by non-living contaminants.
Heating food to sufficiently high temperatures can kill most but not all kinds of microorganisms, which are the source of most cases of foodborne illness. But intoxication, though less common, can be even more dangerous; some molds and bacteria, as well as algae consumed by fish, can produce nasty proteins that aren't easily inactivated by heat, which means you could kill the bugs off by cooking, but still get seriously sick from toxins that stick around in your food after any microorganisms are dead. Chemical contaminants have become another threat to food safety: fertilizers like melamine that remain in food can lead to serious illness.

Looking beyond the home, most high-profile outbreaks have involved contamination at the source of food production. The US worst of the decade? 1,644 California inmates who became ill from Campylobacter-contaminated milk in 2006, nationwide illnesses associated with Salmonella contaminated jalapeno and serrano peppers in 2008, and Listeria-contaminated cantelope that sickened 148 people in 2011 with a death rate of 21%.

Restaurants are another source of foodborne illness, and researchers and public health departments are turning to new ways to monitor disease. Harvard researchers, the Chicago Department of Public Health and a team of Boston and Montreal-based scientists have all begun examining social media and the web as a nontraditional mean of disease surveillance, with the latter noting drily that "Foodborne illness reports on Yelp [are] sometimes extremely detailed."

If you've never had bad food poisoning, you probably have some optimism bias about your risk of getting sick, and may perceive food safety as somebody else's problem. But surveys suggest demographics alone won't protect you. On the one hand, low income populations experience gastrointestinal illness at greater rates, and this disparity is incompletely explained by food consumption patterns (lack of dishwashers, cutting boards, and longer travel time between purchasing and storing/preparing/consuming food may all play a role). But according to the US Food Safety survey, high-risk food safety behaviors actually increase with income. Those most likely to mishandle food? Men between age 30 and 64 who have at least some post-secondary education.

So should you eat it? Some think of the 21st century home as the last line of defense against foodborne disease in increasingly complicated global supply chains, while others swear by apocryphal Mark Twain's belief that "part of the secret of success is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside." But whatever your personal risk tolerance, here are some easy ways to reduce the likelihood of food making you or others sick:
posted by deludingmyself (110 comments total) 65 users marked this as a favorite
 
A tip from me to you: if you're at a mall food court in the late afternoon, and you order two chili dogs, and they say "we only have enough chili left in the pot for one dog"... do not respond "make that ONE chili dog, please!"
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:59 PM on December 15, 2014 [35 favorites]


It's almost 2015, they just need to come out with nutrition pills already.
posted by holybagel at 1:02 PM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


On the one hand, low income populations experience gastrointestinal illness at greater rates...

I think that is not about food-handling really, but about the fact that as food becomes less fresh it becomes more heavily discounted.

Conversely, if your meat is fresh enough, you don't have to cook it at all.

As usual, access to fresh, good ingredients shouldn't be the domain of the privileged. But it often is.
posted by vacapinta at 1:10 PM on December 15, 2014 [6 favorites]


It's almost 2015, they just need to come out with nutrition pills already.

Projects plug: MealSquares, the nutritionally complete food.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:11 PM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


Another ProTip: I always try to rub a bit of salt into my wood cutting boards after washing them. Bacteria do not like salt.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 1:11 PM on December 15, 2014


Couldn't resist clicking on BarfBlog, was not disappointed.
posted by kiltedtaco at 1:15 PM on December 15, 2014


Conversely, if your meat is fresh enough, you don't have to cook it at all.

"Freshness" is a bit of a vague concept, though, especially in food that goes through some additional processing at the point of sale. If I were out buying ingredients for making steak tartar, I might have my choice between two identical pieces of sirloin from the same cow processed on the same day: one ground and one intact. In that case, I'm not sure I'd consider the ground meat less fresh, but I wouldn't choose to serve it raw, because the ground meat would have had more surface area exposed to potential bacteria (from the grinder, the air, or the surface of the meat) for a longer period of time.
posted by deludingmyself at 1:27 PM on December 15, 2014 [5 favorites]


I am constantly putting things back in the fridge after my 30-something male housemates have left them on the counter for arbitrary amounts of time.

I'll show them this thread in an attempt to gain the upper hand in our ongoing food safety battle of wills.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 1:29 PM on December 15, 2014 [6 favorites]


Maybe we could also get rid of the machismo associated with eating raw meat.
posted by Monochrome at 1:29 PM on December 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


I'm pretty sure I've never had food poisoning in my life. While I do wash my hands (multiple times) during food prep, I certainly don't do so for 20 or 30 seconds.

I largely attribute my good luck to being a vegetarian, but the various food contamination that have occurred in the past few years in produce makes me a bit nervous.
posted by el io at 1:31 PM on December 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


I've gotten sick from restaurant food way more often than from my own cooking. In fact, don't recall ever getting sick from my own cooking. (Yes, I wash my hands and utensils a lot and pay attention to temperatures and time.)
posted by ryanrs at 1:34 PM on December 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


Another ProTip: I always try to rub a bit of salt into my wood cutting boards after washing them. Bacteria do not like salt.

Alton Brown, who I somehow did not link in this megapost despite listening to a ton of his podcast while researching it, also recommends sanding them down once a year to get rid of nicks and crevices where bacteria like to hang out.
posted by deludingmyself at 1:34 PM on December 15, 2014 [4 favorites]


So we're not doing the whole "undocumented and un-unionized workers in food processing plants are too afraid to complain when owners raise line rates so high that there's no way they can be conscientious, along with reduced federal funding for inspectors letting plants get away with dangerous practices" thing? I don't have hard evidence or citations, but I've gotten the impression that those are both important factors.
posted by benito.strauss at 1:37 PM on December 15, 2014 [16 favorites]


I largely attribute my good luck to being a vegetarian

If you eat a lot of salads, at any rate, you're exposing yourself to whatever bacteria has been introduced to the vegetables in the picking, packing, shipping, and retailing processes. At least, I use this excuse to explain why cheeseburgers are healthier than salads, because they're cooked, that's why.
posted by dis_integration at 1:38 PM on December 15, 2014 [5 favorites]


I think that is not about food-handling really, but about the fact that as food becomes less fresh it becomes more heavily discounted.

I'd go for "all of the above," since layering older food onto long commutes and kitchens lacking good appliances just makes both problems worse.

Maybe we could also get rid of the machismo associated with eating raw meat.

That's new to me. I'll eat steak tartare when I really trust a place because it tastes amazingly good, but I didn't think of it as a macho performance.

Conversely, if your meat is fresh enough, you don't have to cook it at all.

Or, of course, you can eat very old raw meat as long as that means it was cured. (Your housemate leaving meat on the counter does not count.) There are few things better than jamon serrano or artisanal charcuterie.
posted by Dip Flash at 1:40 PM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


15-90% is kind of a nebulous stastic.
posted by Oyéah at 1:41 PM on December 15, 2014 [4 favorites]


Wash your hands often and thoroughly; at least 20 seconds in warm soapy water.

I tell kids to time themselves by singing a song. Either the ABCs or twinkle-twinkle little star work.
posted by bonehead at 1:47 PM on December 15, 2014


I largely attribute my good luck to being a vegetarian

I've gotten food poisoning four times, never from my own cooking. Two of those four times were vegetarian meals: a Subway veggie sub (NEVER AGAIN) and a stir-fry at a damn vegetarian restaurant. I was so angry.

(The other two times were the aforementioned food court chili dog, and premade sushi from the student union coffee shop. In those cases, I probably should have known better.)
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:48 PM on December 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


I think thats the point.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 1:48 PM on December 15, 2014


So we're not doing the whole "undocumented and un-unionized workers in food processing plants are too afraid to complain when owners raise line rates so high that there's no way they can be conscientious, along with reduced federal funding for inspectors letting plants get away with dangerous practices" thing?

Well, my bias on this one was towards information that might impact folks' thinking in food selection and decision-making about everyday food safety. I didn't talk about antibiotics use at CAFOs increasing the likelihood of food poisoning from drug-resistant infections, either, but it still ended up as a damn long post.

Personally, I think regardless of what the real numbers on that 15-90% range are, it's fair to say that industry is motivated to shift the ultimate responsibility on food safety to the consumer where they can, and FDA and USDA are understaffed with regards to inspection and enforcement capabilities. As long as that holds true, it makes sense to push back on practices that lead towards less safe food chains, but it also makes sense to treat your food chain as suspect, and do what you can as an individual to mitigate your risk.

But also, we all gotta live, and obsessing about food safety like I still work in an aseptic laboratory environment isn't my idea of a healthy lifestyle either. I think this is one of those topics where there are a lot of ingrained cultural and personal habits that people take for granted, but ultimately, knowing how careful is the right amount of careful for yourself and your food is a tough one.
posted by deludingmyself at 1:49 PM on December 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


Ugh. I still can't eat cantaloupe after getting sick from fresh cantaloupe at a reasonably high-end restaurant, though I think it was E. coli or salmonella and not the 2011 listeria outbreak linked. I've had minor feelings of "Eh, probably shouldn't have eaten that" before and since, but that cantaloupe had me out of commission for a good three or four days.

Apparently cantaloupe are often the cause of food poisoning, and there are plenty of issues with E. coli contamination in all sorts of fruits and vegetables (I remember a recent-ish spinach recall). So avoiding meat won't prevent anyone from coming into contact with potentially contaminated food.
posted by jaguar at 1:51 PM on December 15, 2014 [4 favorites]


I largely attribute my good luck to being a vegetarian

My mom worked food inspection for many years. She was one of folks who had the hot phone that would get called when a food recall needed to be made. The number one thing that got recalls were preprepared deli salads (never, ever get supermarket "neptune salad" unless you want to spend the next day crouched over a toilet). the number 2 items were berries (hard to wash). Number three were bagged/boxed leaf veggies (ditto).
posted by bonehead at 1:52 PM on December 15, 2014 [7 favorites]


I'm not sure what evidentiary value there is in people's personal and untested recollections of what particular meals have made them sick (of the "the only time I ever got food poisoning was..." variety). It was my understanding that many and perhaps most people misattribute the origin of the food-borne illnesses they pick up (including misattributing things to food when they could as easily have picked them up off a handrail or door handle). When you think about it, you're always going to opt for the most likely-seeming candidate in the last 48 hours or so of dining, but that "likely-seeming" is a giant invitation to prejudice and confirmation-bias.
posted by yoink at 1:57 PM on December 15, 2014 [35 favorites]


One should point out that identifying where you contracted food poisoning is actually an extremely difficult process, as lag times can be quite very long with some forms.

Post hoc ergo propter hoc and all that
posted by Bovine Love at 1:58 PM on December 15, 2014 [7 favorites]


I largely attribute my good luck to being a vegetarian

This is pseudoscience, at best; I, on the other hand, can correctly attribute my health to currying the favor of the gods, who -- let's face it -- look kindly upon mortals who consume worldly matter with great gusto.
posted by Greg Nog at 1:59 PM on December 15, 2014 [22 favorites]


It was my understanding that many and perhaps most people misattribute the origin of the food-borne illnesses they pick up (including misattributing things to food when they could as easily have picked them up off a handrail or door handle).

Not feelin' great... musta been that door handle I ate
posted by Greg Nog at 2:00 PM on December 15, 2014 [14 favorites]


Maybe we could also get rid of the machismo associated with eating raw meat.

Is steak tartare still macho if I eat it on dainty bits of crostini in a little french bistro?
posted by ryanrs at 2:04 PM on December 15, 2014 [5 favorites]


If you eat a lot of salads, at any rate, you're exposing yourself to whatever bacteria has been introduced to the vegetables in the picking, packing, shipping, and retailing processes. At least, I use this excuse to explain why cheeseburgers are healthier than salads, because they're cooked, that's why.

Yeah, I avoid fresh vegatables as well... Again, that's probably helped prevent food poisoning. (yeah, I'm a vegetarian, but not a healthy eating one).

Off to make some pizza now.
posted by el io at 2:04 PM on December 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


I've eaten street vendor food in Turkey, raw beef in Belgium, and raw oysters and sushi all over the place with no trouble. Then I get mysteriously struck down for no reason I can fathom. (And I've been washing my hands like crazy for months, due to fears of the flu. Got the shot this year, but I've heard they may have guessed wrong on the strain.)
posted by JoanArkham at 2:05 PM on December 15, 2014


Is steak tartare still macho if I eat it on dainty bits of crostini in a little french bistro?

No, you actually have to take a bite out of a live cow as you run past it in the middle of an iron man marathon for it to count.
posted by poffin boffin at 2:06 PM on December 15, 2014 [18 favorites]


I can't buy bean sprouts at the local grocery store, due to prior food poisoning scares.

How do I know if it is safe to buy ceviche from a food truck?
posted by Midnight Skulker at 2:07 PM on December 15, 2014


I largely attribute my good luck to the fact that I drink only distilled water, or rainwater, and only pure-grain alcohol.

As human beings, you and I need fresh, pure water to replenish our precious bodily fluids.
posted by kyrademon at 2:07 PM on December 15, 2014 [16 favorites]


No, I'm pretty sure the bistro version is more macho because it also contains raw egg.
posted by ryanrs at 2:08 PM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


When I had to take an intensive food safety course for my baking business, I learned so much that I still apply it even after I no longer bake for the public. When my husband leaves leftovers at room temp to cool them down, I begin to do my worried face.
posted by Kitteh at 2:08 PM on December 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


Dear AskMetaFilter: Does the "five second rule" apply to raw chicken dropped on the bathroom floor of a sex club a month ago?
posted by sexyrobot at 2:09 PM on December 15, 2014 [14 favorites]


Welp, that just bumped "scrub and disinfect the living shit out of the kitchen" to the top of my to-do list.
posted by skybluepink at 2:11 PM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


No, I'm pretty sure the bistro version is more macho because it also contains raw egg.

Actually, the most macho way to eat it is to nibble it off the thighs of the muscliest, hairiest, manliest naked dude you can find while the two of you watch the history channel
posted by Greg Nog at 2:11 PM on December 15, 2014 [17 favorites]


What you are not accounting for is how many Americans are made to feel sick by additional regulation each year. All of the decent non-pinko ones I should think.
posted by biffa at 2:13 PM on December 15, 2014 [6 favorites]


Legislation-borne illness can be prevented by thoroughly cooking your local member of congress.
posted by dis_integration at 2:15 PM on December 15, 2014 [15 favorites]


I've had a food poisoning now and then. And every single time, it was the result of doing something I knew was stupid.
posted by mumimor at 2:16 PM on December 15, 2014


A lot of people seem to consider food poisoning to mean anything more serious than mild indigestion. Like, if your food poisoning lasted three hours and then you made a complete recovery, it probably wasn't.
posted by Pyry at 2:17 PM on December 15, 2014 [4 favorites]


What if we solved the problem of foodborne illness? Maybe it would save lives, but think how much harder it would be to call in sick.
posted by mullacc at 2:21 PM on December 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure what evidentiary value there is in people's personal and untested recollections of what particular meals have made them sick (of the "the only time I ever got food poisoning was..." variety). It was my understanding that many and perhaps most people misattribute the origin of the food-borne illnesses they pick up (including misattributing things to food when they could as easily have picked them up off a handrail or door handle). When you think about it, you're always going to opt for the most likely-seeming candidate in the last 48 hours or so of dining, but that "likely-seeming" is a giant invitation to prejudice and confirmation-bias.

Oh, absolutely. Sharing meals and homes with other people who did not order the cantaloupe, however, starts to narrow down the likely culprits.

And my overall point in providing an anecdote was that food contamination is not limited to raw meat, or meat in general, which is certainly backed up by science. And the links. And the science in the links.
posted by jaguar at 2:21 PM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]



A lot of people seem to consider food poisoning to mean anything more serious than mild indigestion. Like, if your food poisoning lasted three hours and then you made a complete recovery, it probably wasn't.


I had food poisoning that lasted...well, I was definitely on the mend three hours in. But jesus, what a three hours they were. There was a point where I was feeling pretty ill, walked toward my room and decided that I would just have to lie down on the floor outside my room because I felt too sick to continue. (Inexplicably, my housemate didn't ask me what I was doing.) I did manage to lever myself up and basically crawl to the bathroom some undetermined amount of time later because I had a horrible, convulsive feeling that fluids of various kinds were going to make an appearance. But wow, I was sick. I would hate to be that sick for more than three hours is all I'm saying.
posted by Frowner at 2:22 PM on December 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


The Listeriosis outbreak thing is interesting because if you look at the CDC page, the deaths have a median age of over 80. One of the major things people need to understand is that if you're young and healthy, you've probably got a lot of wiggle room. But you aren't going to stay young and healthy forever. I make things with raw eggs on a regular basis, but when making something for a family dinner that includes elderly relatives, I buy the pasteurized eggs. Things that are reasonable risks when you're 20-40 are not reasonable risks for young children or the elderly. I don't take huge risks, but some things are worth it.
posted by Sequence at 2:24 PM on December 15, 2014 [11 favorites]


I was astounded that for all of the continual fluster about raw eggs and food-bourne illness in America, Europe concocted a remarkably simple solution years ago that remains ignored here in the States: vaccinate the damn chickens against salmonella.
posted by I EAT TAPAS at 2:26 PM on December 15, 2014 [12 favorites]


During Thanksgiving cleanup I annoyed the daylights out of my mother in law by bagging up and putting away all the meat, vegetables, and desserts in the fridge. She insisted that there wasn't enough room in the fridge and we could just "wrap it up and stick it on the back porch because it's gonna be cool." She kept following me around insisting that the stuffing left out on the counter overnight was fine because "cooking it will kill the bacteria" and the sweet potatoes were fine after sitting uncovered for 6 hours. She tried to prove her point by eating both.

When I replied, that was fine for her, but I wasn't taking home any turkey that'd sat outside in freakishly warm November weather (there was a high of 55), she got very offended and stormed off. On her way out, she snidely mentioned that we must be "doing really good if we're okay throwing away food."

While she was gone, I got the rest of the leftovers put away and cleaned out the things from the fridge that had been there since the first Bush was in office. And tossed the sweet potatoes and stuffing that she had been eating on.

When she and came down with a tummy bug two days later, I said nothing. Because I value my life.
posted by teleri025 at 2:27 PM on December 15, 2014 [8 favorites]


Maybe we could also get rid of the machismo associated with eating raw meat.

Steak tartare is one of the national dishes of Belgium. Interestingly, it's called Filet Américain, however I'm sure my mother and my grandmother never though they were being macho by eating it. If you want to hedge your bets, you can substitute good mayo for the raw egg. I know it sounds gross, but it's the same thing.

Steak tartare fans, try it with bison! It's soo good!
posted by Room 641-A at 2:27 PM on December 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


Even more importantly, the US is finally starting to actually measure microbes on chicken and turkey, rather than relying on just visual inspections. And by finally, I mean last month or so. This is possibly the biggest change in US food safety since the fifties.
posted by bonehead at 2:34 PM on December 15, 2014 [12 favorites]


Heh. I live with someone who has strong opinions about what should and should not go in the refrigerator, and how long we have to leave it on the counter before it can be refrigerated. Almost always erring on the side of leaving it sitting out on the counter for hours (or days) longer than I ever would. It's not just laziness; she does it on purpose and gets annoyed when I put the food away.

If she wants to risk food poisoning, well, she's a grownup; so I have adopted a personal policy where I only push back if it smells. But I have never been a big fan of leftovers, and I am becoming less willing to eat them every day.

A first world problem, I know, but I'm grateful I can afford to just let food rot, to preserve household harmony.
posted by elizilla at 2:34 PM on December 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


"I was just having fun. If we didn't get the wings, so what? We still got that meat-lover's pizza in the trunk."
posted by dudemanlives at 2:37 PM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


how long we have to leave it on the counter before it can be refrigerated. Almost always erring on the side of leaving it sitting out on the counter for hours (or days) longer than I ever would. It's not just laziness; she does it on purpose and gets annoyed when I put the food away

What... what... why? Why does she do this? Is it some kind of thinking about letting the food cool down so it doesn't warm up the icebox fridge?
posted by deludingmyself at 2:44 PM on December 15, 2014


I'm not sure what evidentiary value there is in people's personal and untested recollections of what particular meals have made them sick

Well, that's why you need repeatability. I can tell you with exact certainty what caused my last bought of food-related illness.

I had gone out to eat with friends at a local Indian restaurant and order some sort of fish kabob. On the way home, I had such a... violent reaction that I had to park illegally and race up to my apartment lest I soil myself. I spent literally the entire night in the bathroom.

Most people would have just blamed the fish and gone on with their lives the next morning. However, I had a way to verify that it was indeed the fish that caused my distress.

I had the leftovers.

It was definitely the fish that affected me.
posted by backseatpilot at 2:50 PM on December 15, 2014 [24 favorites]


you are an example to us all, brave pooper.
posted by poffin boffin at 2:52 PM on December 15, 2014 [14 favorites]


I got violently sick from eating a large order of curly fries at a favorite restaurant as a teen. After a year, I went back, thinking, "Surely not again!" because no one had closed them down and there were no reports of massive sicknesses. That was a bad idea. I don't know what the hell they put in those fries, but whatever it was my body said NOPE NOPE EJECT EJECT.

I actually got what looked like food poisoning several times as a teen; once I was hospitalized. They never could figure out what it was, no one else around me got sick from eating the same things. Then it went away. Hasn't happened since. I don't know what the fuck was wrong with me. But I've had a healthy fear of anything that might ever make me feel like that ever since. Iffy chicken, left-out meat; out they goes. Whatever it costs to replace them is less than my ER bill would be.

The husband got food-poisoned by Taco Bueno and gave me my first adult judgment call; try to drive him to the ER or call an ambulance?
posted by emjaybee at 2:58 PM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


When I was a kid my mom tells me I would sneak bits of raw hamburger off of the counter and eat them... she asked my pediatrician about it and he said yeah, great, no problem. (This was in the 70s...) I've eaten raw hamburger ever since; pre-ground from the store, ground myself, whatever, probably a few pounds a year, for 40 years... I always buy more than I need because I know I'll eat a bunch. I've never gotten sick from it (or anything else, as far as I know). Some minor discomfort occasionally, but not the hours of sick I've seen others go through.

I am really careful about cross-contamination, though... don't want to get others sick.

Maybe we could also get rid of the machismo associated with eating raw meat.

I actually hide the fact that I'm eating it from people so they don't think I'm insane. I just love the taste. Beef tartare is actually not my favorite because it covers up the taste with a bunch of crap.
posted by Huck500 at 2:59 PM on December 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


What... what... why? Why does she do this? Is it some kind of thinking about letting the food cool down so it doesn't warm up the icebox fridge?

Yeah, one of my canning books attributes this to iceboxes -- putting hot food in the icebox is an issue, because the ice can't cool it down as fast as it heats up the food around it. Mind you, iceboxes haven't been in widespread use for what, fifty years? Modern refrigerators have thermostats that kick right in as soon as the hot food goes in. So putting hot food in the fridge is not an issue these days, but the myth persists.

Of course with very large volumes of hot foods, the fridge may still not be enough to get food out of the danger zone fast enough. But it's not like leaving the food out on the countertop for a few hours is faster!

On an unrelated note, I've had a couple bouts of fast-onset, three-hour, misery puking chills fever illness in the past year. I've asked my doctor about it (while seeing them about another issue, I didn't go in for this specifically) and their take was a very scientific "Meh, one of those things." So I have no idea if that was food poisoning or what, but I agree with Frowner that three hours is more than enough of that level of sick.
posted by pie ninja at 3:01 PM on December 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


Interesting that the issue of vegetable safety came up. One issue that has been coming up lately is the use of wastewater irrigation in agricultural fields, particularly in Mexico, which is the source for a lot of produce in the US market. One pathogen in particular is large roundworms (Ascariasis), which have been measured as high as 100,000 eggs per kg of sludge in Mexico. These eggs are very hardy, take up to 7 years to break down, and are not deactivated (or are poorly deactivated) during the sewage treatment process. It has been estimated that the risk of contracting a roundworm infection from treated crops can be as high as 1 case per person per year. All of that is discussed in this source.

The fact that E. coli often is faulted in vegetable shipments is alarming enough, since produce is not the normal reservoir for E. coli and it appears not enough people are asking how that bacteria is even getting in there. There's a good chance that some of the problems may have to do with wastewater recycling.

I guess the takeaway here is look at where your vegetables come from and wash them thoroughly!
posted by crapmatic at 3:03 PM on December 15, 2014 [7 favorites]


I've had two sudden-onset, violent puke-fests with chills so bad I thought I was going to die. Both times, the sickness came out of nowhere, lasted about three hours, and then went away... like a thunderstorm illness, kinda. Both were after restaurant meals (one McD's and one eleven-dollar omelet). Both mornings I felt absolutely fine until I ate (the "suspect" food was first meal of the day, both times), and then forty minutes after I ate, I spent three hours or so puking and puking and puking while freezing to death and wishing I was dead, whereupon I started to feel a lot better and was fully recovered by evening. Might not be food poisoning but I'm blaming the food.
posted by which_chick at 3:05 PM on December 15, 2014


In my region, norovirus tests are reported to the local health department. When I had norovirus I got a call from a health department worker. It's a uniquely uncomfortable experience to discuss your diarrhea and eating history with a bureaucrat.
posted by hot_monster at 3:08 PM on December 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


What... what... why? Why does she do this? Is it some kind of thinking about letting the food cool down so it doesn't warm up the icebox fridge?

My mom does this to avoid condensation in the tupperware. She leaves hot food out for an hour or two before putting it in the fridge. I've never gotten sick from it, FWIW.

My only real bout of food poisoning this year was from (I think) using some butter that must have gone off. I used it for making an egg in a basket/egg in a hole, and since everyone says you'd definitely know if your eggs were off, and the bread was fine, I assume it was the butter. And, well, lesson learned. Do not use the stick of butter from the back of the fridge when you're not sure how long it's been in there.
posted by yasaman at 3:25 PM on December 15, 2014


I've had noro a handful of times, but never straight-up food poisoning. I spent an uncomfortable 45 minutes on the toilet after eating fried oysters once, and once ate a mooncake along with a lot of other food at a lunar new year festival that sat decidedly badly. I threw up an hour later, and out of everything I ate, the mooncake was the only thing that came up, as far as I could tell. But the kind of thing where you're just clinging to the toilet and praying for death? Never. And I am INCREDIBLY cavalier about food safety. Like I leave chicken to thaw in the sink all the time. Either I've just always rolled sixes or I have MAGIC IRON GUT IMMUNITY.
posted by KathrynT at 3:27 PM on December 15, 2014


My mom does this to avoid condensation in the tupperware. She leaves hot food out for an hour or two before putting it in the fridge. I've never gotten sick from it, FWIW.

Yeah, I'd eat that and probably not get sick too (although my preference is to cook, cover & cool immediately - it's hard to shake the tendency towards aseptic technique after working as a biologist doing a lot of cell culture work, where you can see when you've touched something, fucked it up, and now bacteria are growing where there should be none). An hour or two + cooked + covered falls well within my tolerable limits. elizilla mentioned her roommate can do this for days, which... no.
posted by deludingmyself at 3:34 PM on December 15, 2014


When I was at SJSU, I had several bouts of a type I've never had before or since; the last bout was the day I graduated, in fact. It would start with a very distinctive burping of rotten-egg flavor, and then I'd feel cold and nauseous for several hours, then I'd throw up and be fine pretty much instantly. The strange thing was I almost never ate on campus. It certainly *acted* like food poisoning, and I do know I had eaten some catered food on campus the afternoon before the last time, but I don't know what kind of food poisoning would be location-specific like that.
posted by tavella at 3:41 PM on December 15, 2014


If you guys don't hear from me in a few weeks its because the standing rib roast that I cooked to 120-125F internal temperature murdered me. But at least it will have tasted good in the process.

The USDA never met a cut of meat it didn't want nuked into hockey-puck like consistency.
posted by Justinian at 3:44 PM on December 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


Sooo.....you're saying I should or shouldn't eat that?
posted by briank at 3:50 PM on December 15, 2014


Maybe we could also get rid of the machismo associated with eating raw meat.

That's new to me. I'll eat steak tartare when I really trust a place because it tastes amazingly good, but I didn't think of it as a macho performance.


I'm the same as you (it just tastes good, man) but I've encountered this "macho" perception before with a good friend of mine. We went for steaks and I asked for mine good and rare, almost blue, and my friend thought I was showing off or something. I was a little surprised--it was a nice steakhouse with really good meat and it's really tasty just barely cooked. You want I should get it well done?

Tartare is not my favorite but living in Japan I had plenty of raw meat and seafood. You get a taste for it and it's got nothing to do with machismo.
posted by Hoopo at 3:57 PM on December 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


The USDA never met a cut of meat it didn't want nuked into hockey-puck like consistency.

I wonder how many cases of GI tract cancers arise from eating charred-to-a-crisp food covered in PAHs.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 4:02 PM on December 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


very distinctive burping of rotten-egg flavor

This is a symptom of giardia infection. Probably not in the case of being so short lived a set of symptoms, but boy are those burps noticeable.
posted by ambrosen at 4:03 PM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


I wonder how many cases of GI tract cancers arise from eating charred-to-a-crisp food covered in PAHs.

Heh, that paper was issued in Belgium. It was probably funded by Big Tartare.
posted by Room 641-A at 4:09 PM on December 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


Update: when I got home this evening, I disocvered that Mr. Narrative had left a casserole dish of stuffing on the counter for the entire day.

I threw it out before he could consider trying to argue it's still edible.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 4:12 PM on December 15, 2014 [4 favorites]


After 20+ years in the electronic industry, I left (thank you internet bubble) and ended up working in a small, family owned pizza restaurant as a cook. Mostly a fun job, but though *I* tried to make sure that everything I cooked/served was safe, I still saw stuff that made me cringe. We never had any confirmed problems, but the owner was a cheap SOB and a lot of questionable food went to customers. Now I think about those 8 years every time I order food in a restaurant.
posted by jgaiser at 4:33 PM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


Giardia is an interesting one. Characterized by very 'fluffy' poos. I got that once after a backpacking trip. Interestingly, in Medicine for Mountaineering by Dr. James Wilkerson, the Dr., if I remember it correctly, says giardia is everywhere, very common in city water systems and not the curse it is often portrayed as. He was pretty nonchalant about it, saying that once you've gotten used to the local flavor you don't get it again. Since then I haven't worried too much about purifying water in places I've been (and drunk from) before.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 4:47 PM on December 15, 2014


The fact that E. coli often is faulted in vegetable shipments is alarming enough, since produce is not the normal reservoir for E. coli and it appears not enough people are asking how that bacteria is even getting in there.

posted by crapmatic

:-/
posted by oinopaponton at 6:30 PM on December 15, 2014 [7 favorites]


a Subway veggie sub (NEVER AGAIN) and a stir-fry at a damn vegetarian restaurant. I was so angry.

It does not matter that Liz purchased a veggie sub.

All it takes is a sandwich maker to slice a sub with mayo on it and set the knife down unused or cleaned for a few hours. Then pick up that same knife and slice your veggie sub. Wow. Instant bacteria transfer.
It happened to a student in one of my high schools. I pushed the board of health for an investigation and that was what they determined happened.
posted by notreally at 6:39 PM on December 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


Cook your food well, and wash your hands. Keep washing your hands. Wash them again. After TWO bouts of norovirus in as many years, I've developed a keen paranoia about what my hands touch when I'm out in public, especially now at peak norovirus season. I've trained myself to be quasi-OCD about washing my hands very, very frequently, but perhaps even more important I make sure that when I have touched some surface that could be contaminated (bathroom door handles come to mind), I make a mental note to NOT touch my face, especially my mouth, with that hand until I can wash it again. I've had a cold this winter, but /knock on wood/ no noro.

I remember backpacking all over India for a month, eating the street food and chai, buying food in shops that had rats and monkeys and stray dogs roving every which way...and I didn't get the least bit sick. On my last few nights I splurged on a nice hotel and went to a pretty fancy restaurant, and (I suspect) the water clinging to the lettuce of my salad gave me the Dehli Belly and laid me up for two days. Fighting microbes is hard.
posted by zardoz at 6:58 PM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


All it takes is a sandwich maker to slice a sub with mayo on it and set the knife down unused or cleaned for a few hours.

While we're on the topic, what's the deal with the cultural mind virus that has people convinced that mayonnaise is always one step away from being a nuclear bacteria bomb? Commercial mayo is made with pasteurized eggs, for dog's sake. It sits on store shelves for weeks, unrefrigerated. It's shelf stable! You don't even have to refrigerate it after opening unless you think you really contaminated it with a dirty dirty knife.

Don't fear the mayo.
posted by dis_integration at 7:02 PM on December 15, 2014 [5 favorites]


Here's a tip: if a large portobello mushroom cap has just a little bit of fuzz in one spot on one edge, cutting away and discarding one whole half of the cap ("to be on the safe side") will not be sufficient to avoid some devious organism wreaking havoc on your entire digestive system for several hours.

Theres nothing quite so horrible as running into the washroom and not being sure which end to stick on the toilet. In this case there was no right answer.
posted by Kabanos at 7:04 PM on December 15, 2014 [4 favorites]


Also, please enjoy this nice diagram while you chew on that steak tartare.
posted by Kabanos at 7:10 PM on December 15, 2014


Just to quash this misconception once and for all, quoth chow.com:
The eggs used in commercial mayo are pasteurized, pretty much eliminating the risk of salmonella, says Thomas Schwarz, an independent food safety consultant. He says that the acids bring the pH of commercial mayo to about 4.2 to 4.5, which “isn’t very inviting to microorganisms,” and the emulsification of the product makes the Aw (water activity, which is a measure of free water available for organisms to grow) “quite low.” The addition of salt also makes mayonnaise a less inviting medium for bacterial growth.
posted by dis_integration at 7:11 PM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


Bacteria do not like salt.

Careful about those generalizations - Bacillus cereus, Listeria monocytogenes, and Staph. aureus are notably salt-tolerant, very common foodborne pathogens. (And pathogenic Vibrio species, including V. cholerae, which causes cholera, live very happily in salt water.) Salt-preserved foods and seafood can make you just as sick as any other if they're contaminated with the right bug.

What nearly all bacterial pathogens really don't like is being rapidly dried, which your salting technique probably achieves. But don't count on salt alone to protect you.
posted by gingerest at 7:11 PM on December 15, 2014 [5 favorites]


So my planned dinner of raw chicken rolled in table salt is a bad idea? You take all the fun out of life.
posted by Justinian at 7:14 PM on December 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


> wastewater irrigation in agricultural fields...
I guess the takeaway here is look at where your vegetables come from and wash them thoroughly!


I thought one of the things that was realized with the spinach contamination (Central Valley of California?) was that microbes in water can find their way *inside* plants as part of the plant feeding itself, so washing won't save you and cooking is the only solution. Is there any truth to that?
posted by morganw at 7:15 PM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


Hard for me to reconcile the 1 in 6 number with the "it's not food poisoning unless you want to die" viewpoint.
posted by smackfu at 7:23 PM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


I thought one of the things that was realized with the spinach contamination (Central Valley of California?) was that microbes in water can find their way *inside* plants as part of the plant feeding itself, so washing won't save you and cooking is the only solution. Is there any truth to that?
Summary: Between 20-30 percent of food-poisoning outbreaks linked to disease-causing strains of the bacterium Escherichia coli are caused by people eating contaminated vegetables. Research shows that the disease-causing E. coli O157:H7 interacts directly with plant cells allowing it to anchor to the surface of a plant, where it can multiply.

...Researchers from the James Hutton Institute in Scotland have identified that E. coli O157:H7 uses whip-link structures on its surface known as flagella -- typically used for bacterial motility -- to penetrate the plant cell walls. The team showed that purified flagella were able to directly interact with lipid molecules found in the membranes of plant cells. E. coli bacteria lacking flagella were unable to bind to the plant cells.

Once attached, the E. coli are able to grow on, and colonise, the surface of the plant. At this point, they can be removed by washing, although the researchers showed that a small number of bacteria are able to invade inside the plant, where they become protected from washing. The group have shown that E. coli O157:H7 is able to colonise the roots of both spinach and lettuce.
posted by jaguar at 7:26 PM on December 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


> washing [the outside] won't save you
Huh, this study suggests it's pretty hard to get a norovirus-surrogate all the way into the leaves even when inoculated at the roots and hard to infect inner leaves of lettuce even when outer leaves are contaminated. This & jaguar's reply has me feeling a little better.
posted by morganw at 7:30 PM on December 15, 2014


Huh, this study suggests it's pretty hard to get a norovirus-surrogate all the way into the leaves even when inoculated at the roots and hard to infect inner leaves of lettuce even when outer leaves are contaminated. This & jaguar's reply has me feeling a little better.

When I was searching for info on that, there were a lot of pseudo-science-y crunchy-granola food sites making very definite claims about E. coli being "impossible" to wash off, without much in the way of citations (but a lot of non-sourced articles citing each other). I don't know why those sites would be pushing that particular narrative, other than because it emphasizes the "foods grown on large farms have chemicals!" pseudo-science-y thing, but that idea certainly seems to be around.
posted by jaguar at 7:38 PM on December 15, 2014


About those short cases of food poisoning - cereulide, the toxin produced by emetic strains of B. cereus, is fast-acting (0.5 to 6 hours) and quickly eliminated. Although the general duration of symptoms is more like 6 hours, if you had a pretty low dose, you might be able to metabolize to levels below the toxic threshold in a few hours.
posted by gingerest at 8:04 PM on December 15, 2014


after amoebic dysentery makes you poop bloody foam for 3 days and your tongue cracks down the middle from the dehydration you get a lot more relaxed about stuff like pizza that has been on the counter overnight

at least that pizza isn't going to destroy your liver
posted by poffin boffin at 8:23 PM on December 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


Mostly the reasoning given for not putting it in the fridge, is that the texture of rice or pasta or pizza or cooked veggies will be damaged by the refrigerator. But I dislike smelling yesterday's dinner in the morning when I haven't even gotten out of bed yet. We have compromised by agreeing that it will be covered or closed in the microwave, so I don't have to wake up to aromas that are only appealing when fresh.

I also know a retired USDA guy who believes that the federal government should just outlaw the sale of raw meat, because it's so dangerous. It seems kind of excessive, but you know, I'd rather eat leftovers at his house than my own.
posted by elizilla at 8:38 PM on December 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


Theres nothing quite so horrible as running into the washroom and not being sure which end to stick on the toilet.

Or slightly more accurately, go to the toilet and do one, then turn around and do the other. Norovirus in a nutshell. Repeat for 24-48 hours.
posted by zardoz at 9:43 PM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


Last time I was in the Caribbean, my friend's camera suddenly stopped working, just showing the message "Error #2" on the screen. Suffice to say, "Error #2" became a euphemism for other things for both of us as the week went on. (Don't think it was actually food poisoning though)
posted by transient at 10:01 PM on December 15, 2014


Or slightly more accurately, go to the toilet and do one, then turn around and do the other. Norovirus in a nutshell. Repeat for 24-48 hours.

I had noro when my first child was 4 months old. We were breastfeeding. I spent six hours sitting on the toilet shitting myself hollow while simultaneously leaning over my nursing infant to throw up into a bucket my husband was holding. I have been more gravely ill, but I don't think I've ever so strongly considered that death might be preferable to going on.
posted by KathrynT at 10:51 PM on December 15, 2014 [10 favorites]


My mom does this to avoid condensation in the tupperware. She leaves hot food out for an hour or two before putting it in the fridge. I've never gotten sick from it, FWIW.

Oh man, this was the subject of one the most repeated arguments in my household growing up. My father was a dedicated anti-condensation advocate; my mother didn't care and just wanted to put food away quickly. He would sit there, watching her, waiting for her to make a move for the fridge. When she did, he would jump up and exclaim "No! No! No! No! WHY are you doing that? You KNOW not do that!" She would pretend not to hear him and keep doing what she was doing. He would take it from her and put it back on the counter. He would explain that you had to let it sit; she would say "oh, okay." Two days later, the exact same thing would happen.

Their relationship is actually very good, it just has some odd rhythms.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:28 AM on December 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


I had samonella when I was 8. My whole family got it. We figured it was from a fried chicken place. My Mom has always said that she was lucky because her illness was mild. Otherwise she doesn't know how she'd have gotten through a sick husband, two really sick kids and one sorta sick kid.

All I remember is the constant need for the bathroom and lying in my bed begging my mom to just let me die. I told here I'd be happier dead.

I now find myself working at a food factory (dairy) getting it ready for an even more intense food safety certification then they already have. The bureaucracy around food safety is huge, at least in this part of the industry. Having an insiders view now gives me a different perspective on the need for it.

So much room for nastiness to happen before food gets to my table. I'm happy to spend the zillion hours writing the documents that help ensure that the nasties stay away from my plate.
posted by Jalliah at 5:39 AM on December 16, 2014 [5 favorites]


My wife and I went through a 2-3 year period where every three day weekend the food we had delivered on Friday would make us terribly ill and ruin the weekend.. This is usually the only time we order delivery and I guess with the increased business of the holiday weekend the restaurants just get sloppy? I don't know.. We stopped ordering food all together.
posted by xorry at 6:27 AM on December 16, 2014


My mother's response to any food safety concerns I ever raised was "I haven't killed you yet"
posted by srboisvert at 7:02 AM on December 16, 2014 [5 favorites]


Hmm. In regards to giardia, I did drink the *water* on campus... still, it usually only lasted around six hours (with maybe some aftereffects) which doesn't sound like giardia.
posted by tavella at 8:10 AM on December 16, 2014


When I think about how many (U.S.) restaurant workers come to work with colds or whatever (because no sick time), and don't wash their hands always because they don't have time, I just don't eat out that often.

But sometimes I just try not to think about it, especially when I look around at my own kitchen.

This article will make that just a little bit tougher, won't it?
posted by allthinky at 8:54 AM on December 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


Modern refrigerators have thermostats that kick right in as soon as the hot food goes in. So putting hot food in the fridge is not an issue these days, but the myth persists.

I CAN'T WAIT TO TELL MY HUSBAND THIS. He always wants to leave cooked food out for hours or sometimes even overnight before refrigerating it.
posted by Jacqueline at 9:32 AM on December 16, 2014


Allthinky, this is the thing I always bring up when conservative friends start with the "moral hazard" arguments. You're not coddling the whiny slacking underclasses when you give them sick days. You are protecting the wealthier classes from illnesses spread by people who drag themselves to work because it's that or starve.
posted by elizilla at 10:08 AM on December 16, 2014 [12 favorites]


You are protecting the wealthier classes from illnesses spread by people who drag themselves to work because it's that or starve.

I once worked at a restaurant (not a particularly good one) as a waitress and tried to call in sick because I had a fever of 102 and they told me that if I couldn't find someone to cover my shift I'd have to come in, in blatant violation of health codes. It's not like I was a problem employee; I'd never missed a shift, called in sick, or even been late before. I got someone to cover for me but seriously, I'm not even sure I would have been safe driving since I was so out of it. It definitely wasn't safe to have me handling food.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 10:45 AM on December 16, 2014


I guess this is the post where we detail our food poisoning horror stories.

I'm kinda sorta lax with food safety (but militant in sterilization with canning and brewing). I've been sick from food, maybe a couple times, usually nothing that put me up for too long.

Then there was this one time in college, I chased a lady-friend down to Bolivia to hang out with her after she took a job there. I was only going to be down there for 10 days, and I just knew I was going to get sick (she'd been dealing with various stomach ailments since she got there). I don't have a cast iron stomach, and I just figured it would happen and I was wiling to take precautions.

My backpack looked like Hunter S. Thompson's drug collection, but with anti-diareals, anti-nasuea medication, hippy tinctures to ward off the shits and probiotics. When I was loading up my bag, I thought it was an absolutely silly amount of meds. I kept telling myself that I was just going to leave them all behind for my lady-friend to use and distribute as needed. Security ended up stopping me at the airport to break open my collection to make sure it was legit.

I had a pretty good time, I enjoyed a ton of GREAT food of all kinds of sketchy provenance. I was pretty vigilant about drinking bottled water. I had some altitude sickness, but overall was feeling pretty good. At the end of the trip, I left all my meds with my lady-friend, hopped on a plane, and headed back to the states.

The plane leaves from La Paz and makes a quick stopover to pick up some more passengers. The very second the plane takes off to head to Miami, I start throwing up everywhere. I instantly fill up every single puke-bag the row has for me. I high-tail it to the bathroom, and continue to get horrifically sick. I start running an insane fever, and keep having honest to god visions. I crack the door and ask the flight attendants if there's any anti-nasuea medication on board, or if there's a fucking doctor in Miami. I seriously think I'm going to pass out. I end up sleeping in the goddamn bathroom for the duration of the flight. The attendants were really nice, and just told people the bathroom was out of order.

I got off the plane, still running a fever and just trashed. My layover was a couple hours, and I just spent the entire time scouring the airport for a goddamn toothbrush and toothpaste (as this was in the post-9/11 no gels or liquids near a plane, evar! timeframe). I eventually gave up. I found the only single place in seemingly all of DFW that sold gatorade. I slowly, slowly sipped that shit until it was gone.

Then I caught my connection and it all started over again.

I still get really anxious on airplanes; the idea of being sick and trapped on that flying tin-can is total nightmare fuel for me at this point. And I still have no idea what on earth got me that sick.
posted by furnace.heart at 10:45 AM on December 16, 2014 [4 favorites]


The only rational explanation is obviously that your lady friend poisoned you and took your medicines to leave you helpless.
posted by Justinian at 2:52 PM on December 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


Careful about those generalizations - Bacillus cereus....are notably salt-tolerant,

Q: What's the first question you should ask when you get food poisoning?
A: "Are you cereus?"


posted by storybored at 6:38 PM on December 16, 2014


The really scary thing about norovirus for me is passing out. The both times I've had it, I hit the floor. I could have been seriously hurt if it happened say while driving or on the stairs. Not only does this bug cause intense suffering, it actually tries to kill you physically. Anyone know what causes the fainting and if there's anything to stop it?
posted by storybored at 6:45 PM on December 16, 2014


The only rational explanation is obviously that your lady friend poisoned you and took your medicines to leave you helpless.

This is not the first time this has been suggested.
posted by furnace.heart at 7:01 PM on December 16, 2014


I guess this is the post where we detail our food poisoning horror stories.

I almost never get sick at all but when I do it tends to get really bad. We ate some sushi at a pretty nice resort in Mexico. It seemed like it was still cold and everything else there had been handled competently enough that we assumed that they were on top of things. We were so very wrong.

It started around midnight when I woke up and had to poop. It was gross but not too far out of the ordinary so I went back to bed. My SO got up shortly after with the same. A few minutes later I was up again, vomiting this time. I puked up what felt like my last eight meals and then went back to bed. Next, I got both at once and had to make a judgement call to figure out if I had to poop so bad that it had to happen right now or if it could wait until after I was done pooping. I....made the wrong call.

Meanwhile, my SO was up for round 3 but found the bathroom occupied. However, we were there with her whole family and, as luck would have it, her brother and his then girlfriend were in the room across the hall and had left us with a key! So she barged in there with just enough time to say to a groggy brother, "I have to use your bathroom." Before charging in and facing the demon trying to turn all her innards into outards. Since we lacked the equipment to deal with the mess (let alone the mental or physical ability to deal with it) we call house keeping where my SO uttered the now infamous (in our family) line, "We've had.....some sickness." And some poor housekeeper was dispatched to clean our mess, which she did without complaint and received a LAVISH tip in exchange.

The next day was spent not moving and generally feeling like we'd have to die to get better. Anything that went down came back up again in short order. It was the last day of our vacation and I was really dreading the flight home. I managed not to die on the very full and very long cab ride to the airport and they even let me on the plane. This is the ONLY time I've been thankful that we didn't have a direct flight as I needed the break. I was finally able to drink some of my soda of choice (Mountain Dew) while we were waiting for our next flight. As it had been a full 24-hours since I'd eaten and at least 36 since I had anything to drink, the first sip was the single best tasting sip of soda I have ever had and the subsequent sips are all in my top ten.

It took another 12-hours before I could keep down anything that wasn't liquid. I am nearly certain that my stomach shrank as a result of the ordeal. But I think the worst part was when I was back to feeling totally normal and had my first bowel movement since the...sickness. It felt like a totally normal bowel movement, solid and everything. I happened to look in the bowl after. Did you know that, after intestinal distress that is severe enough to flush your gut flora out that your poop can come out grey? Well I didn't at the time and it freaked me out something awful. I thought that after that normal feeling bowel movement that I could put the whole thing behind me and then these weird, grey turds came out of me! It took me a few minutes of searching to figure out that I was not, in fact, dying but they were a stressful few minutes. I mean, I ate more yogurt than normal for a little while and I was fine but I was convinced that a major medical procedure was in my future.

Don't eat sushi in Mexico kids. It won't taste all that good and there might be more negative consequences.
posted by VTX at 9:31 PM on December 16, 2014 [4 favorites]


I thought that after that normal feeling bowel movement that I could put the whole thing behind me

That's the usual procedure, yes.
posted by yoink at 9:45 PM on December 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


Don't eat sushi in Mexico

The problem was eating sushi at a resort, not what country it was in. I've eaten a ridiculous amount of sushi in Mexico, including from street carts. (There were sushi street carts there a solid decade or two before Portland got on the bandwagon.) But having toured the kitchens at several resorts, I'd be very selective in my eating from them. They have an incentive to not make everyone sick and I think they usually try hard, but buffets and closed off kitchens scare me because there is no way to assess how fresh things are or how good the food handling procedures are at every step.
posted by Dip Flash at 10:32 PM on December 16, 2014


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