TikTok is resurfacing the devastating 2008 death of a 20-year-old college student who passed away after eating unrefrigerated leftover pasta. In a now-viral video, TikToker @jpall20 shared the cautionary tale "for all the students and meal-preppers out there," amassing over 2 million views and 8,000 comments.
"This has to be some form of #naturalselection because idk how this isn’t common sense," she wrote. Commenters were quick to chime in. "I wouldn’t even eat something a week old that had been refrigerated," one user wrote. "No way that container didn’t audibly hiss when he opened it," another added. "A week? I get nervous when I leave it out a few hours," a third person wrote.
The story, which was originally published in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology, details the Brussels, Belgium-based student's accidental death after eating meal-prepped spaghetti. According to the report, he cooked and stored the pasta on Sunday before later reheating and eating it five days later. However, instead of keeping the food properly refrigerated, it was left out on the counter.
He reportedly began experiencing nausea, abdominal pain, a headache, diarrhea, and vomiting. He died at 4 a.m., nearly 10 hours after eating the contaminated pasta. The autopsy claims that he suffered moderate centrilobular liver necrosis, which led to organ shutdown. However, the exact cause of death "could not be determined by the autopsy because the interpretation of findings was very difficult due to the autopsy delay," according to the report.
The National Reference Laboratory for Food-Borne Outbreaks found large amounts of a bacteria called Bacillus cereus, which can cause food poisoning and other serious health issues. In extreme cases, it can lead to liver failure.
As TikToker Dr. Joe, M.D. explains in a video posted earlier this week, this specific type of food poisoning is often called "Fried Rice Syndrome"; the name originated due to its early association with the dish. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, perishable foods should most definitely not be kept out at room temperature, but rather stored at 40 degrees to prevent the growth of this sort of bacteria.
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