Monday, May 15, 2006

Ragu de Mort

So besides being crazy busy in the lab, I had a pretty miserable weekend stomach-wise.

My housemate John kindly offered to cook dinner for me. Delicious!!!! Eggplant and pasta with red sauce, mmmmm! Unfortunately, I got pretty sick.

I discovered that he had been eating out of a jar of pasta sauce kept on the pantry shelf for a few weeks. His previous roomie from the Netherlands opened it, and he decided to finish it. I guess they don't always "refrigerate after opening" in France (or the Neatherlands, since who knows how long mystery Dutch-guy kept it open at room temp).

Anyways, I was the only one struck down by the three week old Ragu. I guess my stomach is a lot weaker. Some have suggested my sickness was psychosomatic, but I don't believe you can think your poop into a liquidy state after every meal for three whole days. The dry-heaves, yes, maybe those were the product of my twisted American mind. Thursday and Friday, I felt that if I could just Ralph, or"choke" as my 5-year-old nephew says, I would be ever so much better. No luck, what we had here, was a one-ended path to despair.

All weekend I was worried that I had some horrible bacteria or toxin growing in my stomach. After examining the jar in the recycle bin, I found that although the sauce looked fine to John, the inside of the lid had a lot of blue fuzz. So, what was growing in my stomach? I soon learned that botulism was unlikely. Carol C. Schlitt, Extension Educator, Nutrition and Wellness University of Illinois Extension, put my mind at ease.....well mostly.

"Fortunately, botulism spores only vegetate(grow) in the absence of oxygen. Since you say the can was open, botulism would not develop. And the symptoms for botulism are not flu like but attack the nervous system-- so I would stop worrying about that particular bacterium. Thank goodness it was meatless sauce-- the pH of the sauce is lower (more acidic) than spaghetti sauce with meat making it a less likely environment for harmful bacteria to grow. Food spoilage organisms (such as mold, etc) probably would take over long before food borne illness bacteria multiplied to sufficient numbers to cause illness. Most bacterium that cause food borne illness cause flu-like symptoms -upset stomach, diarrhea, vomiting. And these symptoms can occur as soon as 30 minutes of ingesting up to 72 hours later (depending upon the bacteria strain). I hope this has helped and that by the time you are reading this you are feeling fine. It's true that Europeans do not refrigerate their food as readily as Americans. Many of their food products that we normally refrigerate are aesceptically packed which allows them to be shelf stable. Perhaps he is use to this type of sauce. However, once this type of packaging is opened it must be refrigerated for safety (even in Europe.)"

I felt much better after bland food for three days, and a course of yogurt therapy to regrow my good bacteria (thank God for mango lassis!), Anyways, John has started a new bottle on the shelf, I am timing this one to see how long it takes him to get through. I also won't be eating any more of his pasta. Then again he did help me meet my first diet goal of 152lbs, so maybe on my quest for 144, I should ask him to cook for me again.


Blogger pughd said...

Glad you're feeling better. Even I don't make you eat sketti sauce with blue fuzz!

I like the nutritionist's e-mail too. Nice of her to explain words like vegetate, organism, and pH but then leave aeseptically on its own. Although I did catch an icorrect usage of the singular "bacterium."

6:49 AM  
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