Heartbreak: Student Dies After Eating 5-Day-Old Spoiled Pasta

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Pasta is a cheap, easy and delicious meal. Mac and cheese is a childhood staple, and there are few things more comforting than a plate of fettuccine alfredo and a glass of wine.

Spaghetti and meatballs is another perennial favorite, and plenty of students get by on cheap pasta like spaghetti and ramen noodles. But in 2008, it was spaghetti that was the culprit in one student’s death.

The Belgian student, whose name was AJ, made a fatal mistake that ended up claiming his life. College students are notorious for eating questionable foodstuffs, and AJ was no different.

Someone had made spaghetti with pasta sauce five days earlier, and had left a portion of it out on the counter (something many students are familiar with). Instead of tossing the days-old pasta and figuring out something else for dinner, he heated it up in the microwave and ate it.

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From that point on, nothing was right. He suffered intense gastrointestinal distress and had to come back home. He thought he’d sleep it off, but after going to bed he never woke up.

The Journal of Clinical Microbiology published the study of poor AJ’s case in Dec. 2011.

“On 1 October 2008, a 20-year-old man became sick after eating a meal of leftovers of spaghetti with tomato sauce, which had been prepared 5 days before and left in the kitchen at room temperature,” the study reads.

“After school, he warmed the spaghetti in the microwave oven. Immediately after eating, he left home for his sports activities, but he returned 30 min later because of headache, abdominal pain, and nausea.”

“At his arrival, he vomited profusely for several hours and at midnight had two episodes of watery diarrhea. 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.”

Tests confirmed that the doomed young man had ingested Bacillus cereus, a bacterium that causes food poisoning and can survive being heated up. But unfortunately, what AJ experienced was far more than the typical bout of vomiting and diarrhea.

The study suggested that the bacterium produced a toxin known as cereulide which is known to kill mitochondria, and that AJ’s system started to deteriorate because of. Large amounts of both B. cereus and cereulide were found in samples of his last meal.

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Fortunately for most of us, this can be avoided by not eating five-day-old pasta that’s been left out at room temperature. The CDC recommends keeping your refrigerator below 40 degrees Fahrenheit and refrigerating leftovers as quickly as possible.

Washing hands, countertops, utensils, washcloths and other work surfaces is also crucial to prevent the growth and spread of microscopic nasties.

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Amanda holds an MA in Rhetoric and TESOL from Cal Poly Pomona. After teaching composition and logic for several years, she's strayed into writing full-time and especially enjoys animal-related topics.
As of January 2019, Amanda has written over 1,000 stories for The Western Journal but doesn't really know how. Graduating from California State Polytechnic University with a MA in Rhetoric/Composition and TESOL, she wrote her thesis about metacognitive development and the skill transfer between reading and writing in freshman students.
She has a slew of interests that keep her busy, including trying out new recipes, enjoying nature, discussing ridiculous topics, reading, drawing, people watching, developing curriculum, and writing bios. Sometimes she has red hair, sometimes she has brown hair, sometimes she's had teal hair.
With a book on productive communication strategies in the works, Amanda is also writing and illustrating some children's books with her husband, Edward.
Austin, Texas
Languages Spoken
English und ein bißchen Deutsch
Topics of Expertise
Faith, Animals, Cooking