Food poisoning deaths are rare in developed nations. Typically, people who end up with a foodborne illness have to tolerate a few days of digestive issues before ending up on the road to recovery. However, one 20-year-old student wasn’t so lucky after ingesting a meal of leftover spaghetti that proved to be fatal.
The tragic case actually occurred in 2008, when a student in Belgium – identified as “A.J.” in reports – fell ill after eating leftover pasta and tomato sauce. But, according to a report by Fox News, the story has gained new attention after a doctor featured the case in a video on his YouTube channel.
A report that discussed the death noted that the leftovers had been stored at room temperature, not in a refrigerator. While the 20-year-old did heat his meal up in a microwave, it wasn’t enough to prevent food poisoning.
“Immediately after eating, he left home for his sports activities, but he returned 30 minutes later because of headache, abdominal pain and nausea. At his arrival, he vomited profusely for several hours and at midnight had two episodes of water diarrhea,” said the report.
“He did not receive any medication and drank only water. After midnight, he fell asleep. The next morning at 11:00 AM, his parents were worried because he did not get up. When they went to his room, they found him dead.”
A post-mortem examination revealed that the student had died at approximately 4:00 am. An analysis of the leftover spaghetti found a significant amount of B. cereus, an organism that is known to cause food poisoning.
In the YouTube video, which has been viewed over 1.9 million times since being posted on January 21, Dr. Bernard explained that the leftovers caused A.J.’s liver to shut down.
“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,” said Bernard.
He does note that A.J.’s death was not “typical” for a food poisoning case, and echoes many of the findings in the original report.
“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,” said the report. “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.”