should i eat this?
October 22, 2011 10:42 AM   Subscribe

Should I eat it? I didn't get sick from it, but my girlfriend did. Also, why would only one person get sick?

Here is what we both ate yesterday:

Breakfast: I don't remember what I ate, she didn't eat anything. We both had coffee with the same milk.

Lunch: We shared leftovers from the dinner we made the night before.

Dinner: She made pasta with scallops and broccoli soup with (week-old) sour cream. She cooked, so perhaps she got the food poisoning from contamination from cooking. Maybe she had a bad scallop. Maybe my stomach is "stronger" or something?

I had some snacks during the day, she did not snack.

She got extremely ill in the middle of the night - I was completely fine.

We're going to throw out the sour cream, but would you eat the pasta with scallops? It's SO good and we have several servings left. Or would you eat just the pasta that's leftover, eating around the scallops?

Also, how common is it for one person to get food poisoning and the other person to be totally okay. I tried to google but didn't find much. I saw this question, where the same thing happened, but it wasn't really explained.

posted by insectosaurus to Food & Drink (28 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It could be a stomach virus instead of a foodborne pathogen. In which case, you should take precautions against catching it from her. To be on the safe side, I'd chuck the pasta and scallops. If it was a bad scallop, there might be another.
posted by workerant at 10:45 AM on October 22, 2011 [5 favorites]

Additionally, many factors influence an individual's susceptibility to food poisoning, including antacid use. It is likely you will never know what caused your girlfriend to get sick.
posted by workerant at 10:48 AM on October 22, 2011

We had a (less dramatic but still) similar event recently, after fresh blue mussels. One bad specimen - stronger stomach...both are an option. I wouldn't worry about the sour cream, actually, that's likely just fine. Apart from that, one can have a stomach bug, and the other not (yet). It's typically really difficult to get to know what's what in situations like this.

That said, if you have leftovers, throw them out. One-day-old pasta with scallops - how tempting is that anyway?
posted by Namlit at 10:48 AM on October 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Some people have tender tummies - I often get sick from leftovers/marginally safe food that no-one else gets sick from. I always pitch opened dairy after a week for that very reason.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 10:50 AM on October 22, 2011

She got extremely ill in the middle of the night - I was completely fine.

Note that this is exactly the symptom I get from scallop allergies (well, I'm never sure whether it is technically an intolerance or allergies)...does she eat scallops regularly?
posted by advil at 10:56 AM on October 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: advil - she has had scallops many times without getting sick. Can you develop an allergy in your 30s, do you know?

It's possible that it's a bug, but the pattern seems more like food poisoning to me. To be more specific, she woke up and spent about 3 hours throwing up violently, then it passed and now she's a little shaky, but basically fine.
posted by insectosaurus at 10:59 AM on October 22, 2011

My mom is allergic to scallops, and throws up violently about six hours after eating them. I have the same thing with mussels. It developed completely out of the blue (ie, I used to eat and enjoy mussels, but one day this happened, and I thought it was a fluke until I unwisely tried again a few months later) but is very consistent. So my guess is that she's developed a scallop intolerance, and that she should NOT eat them again, but you would be okay.
posted by cider at 11:00 AM on October 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Norovirus is often mistaken for food poisoning. In fact, a lot of researchers believe that up to 50% of the food poisoning cases reported in the U.S. may actually be norovirus instead.
posted by ErikaB at 11:02 AM on October 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh - but I would absolutely throw out the pasta and the sour cream. Why risk it?
posted by ErikaB at 11:03 AM on October 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

The thing about food poisoning that makes it difficult to track down is that there are many different types that cause their symptoms in different ways. For example, this site lists some of the more common culprits in food poisoning, with incubation periods as short as an hour and as long as 10 days. So in theory, anything your girlfriend ate in the last 10 days could be the culprit. There are also non-food poisoning causes of those symptoms, such as rotavirus, which children often share with their parents. I have to say, I would eat both the pasta and the sour cream, assuming they were prepared and stored in a reasonably safe manner, but it is your call.
posted by TedW at 11:07 AM on October 22, 2011

I would order a pizza.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:07 AM on October 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Follow up question: I know they can do food allergy testing, but can they do food intolerance testing?

posted by insectosaurus at 11:08 AM on October 22, 2011

You can develop new allergies at any time, in your childhood, your twenties or thirties, your old age.

(Examples: my boss developed one to shellfish in in her forties; I've become intolerant of much dairy since I turned fifty. It's a pain.)
posted by easily confused at 11:17 AM on October 22, 2011

I think the sour cream is the least likely culprit. When sour cream goes bad it just gets visibly moldy. It doesn't become invisibly poisonous. (I could be wrong, I'm not a food scientist; this is just what I've observed.) Shellfish on the other hand... it only takes one. If I were you I would sadly throw that scallop pasta out; and if I were your gf I would avoid scallops for a while.
posted by fingersandtoes at 11:29 AM on October 22, 2011

Three hours is a long time when you're yakking, but neither viruses nor food poisoning generally pass that quickly. If she can eat or drink anything right now and not revisit it, I'd go with "something didn't agree with her specifically". It is probably possible that one bad scallop might not set off a chain reaction, but she should probably avoid them for a bit and maybe discuss with a doctor.

I'd probably consider the leftovers edible for me if my husband got sick like that, but it's safer to throw it away, and the sour cream (though you generally cannot miss bad sour cream, it's a couple bucks to be safe). When her traumatic associations pass, make it again without scallops and enjoy.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:36 AM on October 22, 2011

Foodborne illness doesn't always come on so quickly. It could have been something she ate a day or two ago. I have no idea why you'd toss the sour cream before the scallops/pasta. Sour cream goes visibly bad, scallops are a more likely culprit.
posted by sunshinesky at 11:55 AM on October 22, 2011

I keep sour cream for WEEKS and it stays fine. It was probably a bad scallop. Throw out the pasta! Feed her some oatmeal.
posted by two lights above the sea at 12:10 PM on October 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think I'm more sensitive to bad seafood than some people. My ex and I made shrimp together last year and I vomited all night long and he was fine. Or maybe I got the bad shrimp. Shellfish goes bad easily.
posted by melissam at 12:21 PM on October 22, 2011

You didn't mention her history with this kind of thing. I got what I assumed what food poisoning (no idea really) a few years ago, and my stomach has been more sensitive ever since.
posted by Roman Graves at 12:27 PM on October 22, 2011

Food poisoning takes at least 24 hours and often 48 hours to actually hit. Therefore, consider what you ate the day before yesterday, it certainly wasn't your dinner.
posted by stillnocturnal at 12:33 PM on October 22, 2011

My grandmother developed/discovered a shellfish allergy in her sixties. (At her son's wedding, about 2 hours after the shrimp appetizer.) Lots and lots of puking. You can develop allergies at any time in your life.
posted by looli at 12:34 PM on October 22, 2011

stillnocturnal , that's not quite accurate. Some toxins can act within an hour. Some take longer. Not all foodborne illness is alike. There are many different causes.
posted by sunshinesky at 12:50 PM on October 22, 2011 [5 favorites]

Food poisoning takes at least 24 hours and often 48 hours to actually hit. Therefore, consider what you ate the day before yesterday, it certainly wasn't your dinner.

This is NOT true. If it is paralytic shellfish poisoning (which in a mixed batch could have been from only one scallop), it could have occurred much sooner than that.
posted by D.C. at 12:52 PM on October 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

May I propose a universal law as regards to "can I eat this"? If it involves any type of fish or shellfish and one person has already been ill, or any animal protein has been left raw at room or warmer temperature for over two hours, could we agree that the answer is don't eat it. Toss it. The risk is not worth it.

I hope your girlfriend feels 100% better soon.
posted by vers at 1:03 PM on October 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't know, I would probably eat it, but that's me. I would eat almost anything that tastes good and doesn't appear to be spoiled (to me). But, then again, when I was in college and living in a co-op, the way we survived winter and summer breaks (during which the co-op did not provide food) was to go dumpster-diving. You'd be surprised how much perfectly good food gets thrown out by supermarkets. I once got very sick from eating a sandwich that was taken out of the dumpster, but that didn't stop me from continuing to eat out of the dumpster.
posted by raynax at 1:10 PM on October 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

As others have said, I think the least likely cause is the sour cream. Sour cream should last much longer than a week. On most sour cream I buy, the sell by date is usually about two weeks away from the date of purchase, and I've used it for a week or so after that with no problems.

I think it's way more likely to be something she ate that you did not, or she's coming down with some kind of bug.
posted by katyggls at 1:37 PM on October 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm another one who developed an intolerance after years of eating mussels with no problems. Now if I eat them I spend the entire night vomiting. Not pleasant, and very sad, as I bloody love mussels.
posted by knapah at 1:46 PM on October 22, 2011

Does she have muscle cramps in her back and/or upper thighs? did she eat cantaloupe sometime in the past few weeks, or longer? I got sick in the middle of the night after eating the same thing for dinner as the other three people in the house. Then an entire week later my boyfriend got sick with nearly the exact same symptoms: sick in the middle of the night, incredible back ache, slight fever, overall malaise, and we had eaten everything exactly the same. The news of the cantaloupe listeria wave broke and I did some research. After learning that listeria/listeriosis has an average incubation period of 21 days, it suddenly made sense. We'd eaten a couple of cantaloupes a few weeks earlier. IANAD, and we never went to a doctor because neither of us was sick for longer than 48-72 hours, so didn't get a diagnosis or anything, but it seems to me like 1+1=2. Both of us have healthy immune systems.

Anyway, I would suspect that or another food-borne illness that has an extended incubation period, like TedW suggested. even if she didn't eat cantaloupe, it could be listeria or norovirus from lots of places from a while ago. In which case, the food that's in your fridge right now should be fine.
posted by brave little toaster at 2:10 PM on October 22, 2011

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