Undercooked beans: this is basically my nightmare
December 7, 2017 9:14 PM   Subscribe

My girlfriend and I have just accidentally eaten some slightly undercooked beans. On a whim I looked it up and discovered that undercooked beans can make you violently ill. I have PTSD from being violently ill several years ago. Is there any chance that we won't be sick?

I made a bag of soup mix with dried red beans in it (Bob's Red Mill something something). The directions say to cook it for an hour and a half, and I cooked it for more like an hour and 45 minutes, but some of the beans were still pretty firm, with a little spot of white in the middle. We ate anyway, because my girlfriend had to go somewhere (!) and we were starving.

I was concerned, so I looked it up and discovered that undercooked beans can make you insanely sick. I don't know if the problem is mitigated by the fact that these cooked for as long as they did, even if they are undercooked. Some sources say "boil vigorously for 15 minutes and you'll be fine," but others say they need to be absolutely cooked through.

I have been diagnosed as having PTSD from a bout of violent illness about 7 years ago. I am extremely terrified of vomiting, have not thrown up since that bout of illness, and have actually gone to insane lengths to avoid ever throwing up again. I read that undercooked beans can make you vomit extremely violently. I am not feeling good about the prospect of doing that again.

I ate much more than she did.

I've read that onset of symptoms can occur within 1-3 hours. It's been an hour. Normally, I'd be embarrassed posting something like this, but I'm frankly terrified.

Two questions:
How terrified should I be right now?
Is there anything she or I can do, or do we just need to wait it out?
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk to Food & Drink (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
These are completely safe and you are fine. Guaranteed.
posted by Slinga at 9:16 PM on December 7, 2017 [16 favorites]

You will be okay.
posted by Hermione Granger at 9:22 PM on December 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

I don't know about the official food safety line here, but I have done this with dry bean soup mix on a few occasions and never got sick.
posted by noxperpetua at 9:35 PM on December 7, 2017

You should not be terrified at all. And please don't search online for reasons to be terrified.
posted by christa at 10:17 PM on December 7, 2017 [5 favorites]

I have done this more than a couple of times and was fine. Didn't get sick at all. I can absolutely understand your concern though, given your past trauma. Sorry you went through that. :(
posted by blackcatcuriouser at 10:43 PM on December 7, 2017

There is a toxin in the skin of red kidney beans that can make you ill, but the toxin breaks down by boiling the beans for ten minutes. Eating large amounts of any kind of undercooked bean can give you indigestion but you didn't do that, and you did boil the beans long enough to break down that toxin. Most commonly the illness occurs because people cooked their beans in a slow cooker that never reaches a high enough temperature to break down that chemical, and you didn't use a slow cooker, right? Because an hour and a half in a slow cooker would probably have been way too short.

Anyway, you will be fine. If you have an Rx for occasional anxiety I'd say now is the time to take it so you can calm down, not get a stomach ache from the stress and get some solid sleep tonight. If your girlfriend is up for distracting you with a game or favorite movie or whatever, she could do that, but you have no reason to be terrified at all.
posted by Mizu at 11:16 PM on December 7, 2017 [22 favorites]

You're just gonna be hella flatulent, most likely. But I don't think there's any way those beans are actually gonna hurt you.

Also, the beans are a red herring. Bottom line is this level of fear/re-experiencing over an ultimately quite mundane "oops" is a sign that you need more mental health care and assistance in recovery.

Best of luck, and you're gonna be alright.
posted by InkDrinker at 11:37 PM on December 7, 2017 [12 favorites]

I have had food poisoning from contaminated food and upset tummies from mildly bad food/ poor hygiene of makers and the difference is like being tickled and being punched. Food poisoning is vicious and comes on like a truck. If you had it, you wouldn't worry about posting, you'd already be calling the hospital or going there. Weirdly my food poisoning made me feel easier about trying new foods because now I know a queasy stomach is just nerves or regular range of discomfort.

I feel you on the food. It's taken me over three years to eat some foods again related to hospital visits etc. But food poisoning is not subtle.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 11:53 PM on December 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: We were fine. Fear over poisoning has been replaced by mild embarrassment at the public airing of my anxieties. Thanks for the input. I did see it, and it was reassuring.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 4:25 AM on December 8, 2017 [18 favorites]

Don’t be embarrassed, please. PTSD is no joke regardless of the source. I agree with others that this particular reaction might be a sign that you need some more treatment for your PTSD, but you’ve got nothing to be embarrassed about. Trauma changes how our brains react to things. I hope you are relaxed and comfortable now.
posted by ocherdraco at 5:57 AM on December 8, 2017 [17 favorites]

For future reference, I had severe food poisoning a couple of years ago, and my home 1st aid supplies now include Imodium, and anti-emetics (meds to help control puking), including pot and several forms of ginger. I had the flu last month and having ginger ale in the house was incredibly helpful. Having some remedies available helps diminish my fear/hatred of puking.
posted by theora55 at 7:52 AM on December 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

Please don't be embarrassed! Emetophobia is a real thing. The sight, sound, or smell of someone being sick is enough to throw me into full-fledged panic attacks. I have had to pull a car over on the highway so I could bolt from it when a passenger started gagging. And don't ask me about the night trying to sleep in a tent at a camping event while the heavy-drinking occupant of the tent next to mine had a Really Bad Night. Or the VERY RECENT incident where I was in the restroom at work, trapped (pants-down) on the commode when a coworker ran in to be sick in the stall next to me.
posted by hanov3r at 3:34 PM on December 8, 2017

Yeah, it was probably just that the beans had been sitting on the shelf for a while: older, drier beans take longer to rehydrate than the package suggests, but it's just a texture thing and not a food safety thing.

To second mizu, hemagglutinin (the toxic protein in red kidney beans) is broken down by just 10 minutes of boiling. It's actually kind of hard not to cook beans enough because the protein starts breaking down at 90°C, and even a simmer, just off the boil, is still around 95°. The problem usually comes when people either DIY kidney bean sprouts and eat them raw, or as Mizu said, use a slow cooker, which only gets up to around 80°C. Finally, while unpleasant, most of the time it is not a prolonged sickness and resolves way faster than a typical viral/bacterial infection (just 3-5 hours).

Also, I don't have PTSD so I hope this isn't presumptuous, but I have also asked a total anxiety-freakout question about food safety on AskMe that was even also about beans, lol (since you have emetophobia a quick cw: I do talk about intentionally throwing up in that Ask question, but no graphic details). So I just wanted to say, I have totally felt a very similar species of panic fading abruptly to embarrassment and offer my sympathies! Brains are odd beasts.
posted by en forme de poire at 5:50 PM on December 8, 2017

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