November 26, 2012 6:36 PM   Subscribe

I think I might have gotten food poisoning by eating prepared food from a convenience store, but there are some confounding factors. I'm fine now, but not sure if I should notify someone about this.

The night before Thanksgiving I decided to go out to the bars with some friends. By the end of the night I was slightly drunk, but had been drinking light beers all night, so I was far from blacking out or being incapacitated. As we neared the house I was staying at, I decided I wanted some drunk food for a night cap, and went to Royal Farms. For some reason their deli was closed (which is unusual, since I'm relatively sure they're open all night normally), so I decided to get a prepared chicken/bacon salad. I went back to the house, ate it, and went to bed.

The next morning I was sicker than I've been in quite a while. At first I thought I was hungover, but usually when I throw up from a hangover it's over and done, and then I start feeling better. This time, however, from when I woke up at 8 am until around 2 pm I threw up every 30 minutes or so (mostly dry heaving). This was also coupled with pooping every hour or so. The last time I threw up, (around 2) it was much more violent than the other ones had been, but I finally began feeling better, and was able to eat some saltines, and then later have some leftovers (despite missing the actual Thanksgiving meal).

The throwing up was accompanied with some stomach pains, but no fever or chills.

I've had bad hangovers before, but they're almost always tied to drinking hard liquor - not having a handful of beers over the course of the day. They also tend to clear up after an hour or so of feeling lousy and puking once - not extend over six hours of constant dry heaving.

The thing that I'd eaten before the salad was a plate of fish tacos, but I'd shared one of those with a friend, and he hadn't gotten sick.

Was I drunker than I realized, and just super sick from drinking? Or is it more likely that it was food poisoning? To complicate matters, a friend went by the same Royal Farms later in the week and said that he saw a worker at the deli wearing gloves while moving a trash can around, and then picking up chicken tenders from their heat tray without changing gloves, but I'm also not sure if the workers at the store are the same people that make the prepared food, like packaged salads.

Should I contact someone (the store, or the health board) about this? I'd written it off since I got better the same day, but if it's something that could hurt other people, then it seems like something that should be brought to someone's attention.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Go ahead and tell the health department. They will investigate. If there are no violations, the convenience store will suffer no consequences, so no harm done.

When I did this, I was able to have a fairly long conversation with the health department rep. During this conversation you could explain that you aren't sure of the cause.
posted by latkes at 7:02 PM on November 26, 2012 [5 favorites]

6 hours of vomiting and GI distress after just getting 'slightly drunk' the night before? Especially after eating something as super suspicious as chicken salad from Royal Farms? I'll definitely vote that it's more likely gastroenteritis, but there is no way to be certain other than checking stool cultures/testing (which aren't necessary if you're no longer symptomatic!). Staph aureus is a common cause for gastro after eating a mayo salad (chicken/tuna/egg etc). More likely to be related to improper storage/temperature control of the food.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 7:02 PM on November 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

It should be brought to someone's attention, but based on the facts you describe, we really don't know who is responsible. Honestly, it is probably next to impossible to ascribe your experience to the chicken salad. You don't know what foodborne illness you had (if indeed food was the source of your illness), and therefore don't know the incubation period for it. It could have been your lunch, just as easily as it could have been the chicken salad. It's also not impossible for only one of your fish tacos to have been bad.

If you observe food service employees failing to observe necessary food safety, that is certainly something for you to tell your local health inspector. But you didn't.

I'm sorry you were sick; that's never pleasant. And if you'd like to report it to someone, your local health inspector is the person. But this is a pretty low-information incident, and I wouldn't be surprised if nothing comes of it.

I'm glad you're feeling better now.
posted by gauche at 7:08 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

It takes longer than the described time to get food poisoning.

Alcohol does weird things to the system. On many occasions I have found myself drunker than I "normally" would be, sicker or more hungover than seems typical, etc.

It sounds like you should avoid Royal Farms, because probably it's going to squick you out for a long time in the future.

Also, eeeeeewwwww, chicken salad from a convenience store late at night over a holiday weekend when the normal food prep folks are gone? What about that sounded like a good idea?

I think that if you saw with your own eyes the employees of Royal Farms doing something that obviously breaks health codes, you should talk to the management, owners, or whoever the Boss Man is (not familiar with Royal Farms - is this a local corner store? A franchise? A chain with a corporate HQ?). Also the health department if you live in a place where they will give a shit.

Otherwise, chalk it up to a bad night and try to at least make better drunk food choices in the future.
posted by Sara C. at 7:09 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

It takes longer than the described time to get food poisoning.

I'm not sure why you say that. Food poisoning can occur within 2-6 hours of eating the bad food. I don't think there's any harm in reporting it- the Food Safety people say you should contact your local health department.
posted by Mouse Army at 7:38 PM on November 26, 2012 [8 favorites]

It takes longer than the described time to get food poisoning.

SOME kinds of food poisoning. OTHER kinds -- including, the kind the OP describes - come on right quick. And I know this because what the OP describes happened to me in exactly this fashion - gastrointestinal symptoms a friend of mine once called "two exits, no waiting" -- after having bad kebabs at a fast food place. I spent 2 hours puking ever 20 minutes, then my bowels joined the party for another hour or two after that. And after a really rough few hours I finally got to sleep and woke up fine, if a bit wiped out.

I'd be inclined to contact the Food Safety people more so about the gloves; it's hard to know precisely what may have caused your gastroenteritis. But it's safe to assume it WAS indeed food poisoning - one good rule of thumb I read about this gastric kind of food poisoning is that what's happening is that your body is trying to get rid of the toxin by shoving it out the exit nearest to whereever it is in your system. That's why it starts with vomiting and then segues into....yeah.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:56 PM on November 26, 2012

"Two exits, no waiting" -brilliant.

Thank you for posting this question! I've been vomiting for the last 6 hours after eating some fast food and wondering if I should call the health department. My question is now answered thanks to the wonders of Ask.Me. Glad you're feeling better.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 10:25 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Where are you? My toddler came down with norovirus on Thanksgiving, and pretty soon her parents and grandparents got it too. Her pediatrician told me that there was a spike over the holiday, and your symptoms sound just like hers. We are in NYC.
posted by snickerdoodle at 6:34 AM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Porcine - my sympathies! If it starts coming out both ends, according to what I've read and experienced, that's another indicator that a food-borne thing is probably what's going on. And if that's the case, you would probably be done with it by the end of the day today. If not, though, I'd call a doctor.

Reminding you all that I am NOT a doctor. I'm only as confident about this one because I read an article about food-borne gastric distress and they were the ones that stated the "starts quick with vomiting, gradually segues into diarrhea" as a symptom - and then a month later it actually happened and I realized "oh, right, this is what they were talking about"; my theory was confirmed when we called a doctor the morning after it all happened to check in and he said "yep, that sounds like that's what was going on, just take it easy today and you'll be fine". So I'm not a doctor, but this time this argument was backed up by doctors.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:42 AM on November 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

This sounds like norovirus, in which case it wouldn't have been the chicken sandwich (1-2 days incubation). It seems to regularly show up around Thanksgiving, probably because people are doing a lot of eating, drinking, and socializing indoors.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:57 AM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

« Older Upgrading an old laptop.   |   Am I being a crazy hormonal pregnant lady by... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.