Other people’s baking: delicious and dizzying
March 16, 2023 5:50 PM   Subscribe

In the past month, my three year and I have eaten baked goods made by different friends twice, and both times, came down with symptoms of bad food poisoning: diarrhea, extreme nausea, loss of appetite. I believe my friends are hygienic enough, and my husband had no reaction. Is there an ingredient they might be using that is causing a reaction?

The baked goods were mochi and muffins (no recipe known, but pretty standard).

Due to the pandemic and WFH, my three year old and I have barely eaten things we don’t cook ourselves in the last three years. My husband does eat out regularly. This makes me wonder if our stomachs are really sensitive — but to what? Restaurant (savory) takeout causes no issues in the rare time we do it.

We do bake at home with no reactions.

This could also be a sheer coincidence, but I’m just wondering if there is some obvious ingredient — or method — in homemade baked goods by other people that is upsetting us.
posted by redlines to Food & Drink (17 answers total)
Lactose intolerance perhaps?
posted by creatrixtiara at 6:01 PM on March 16

Response by poster: Coming in to say we have no known food allergies or reactions. We consume a lot of dairy and eggs as well as wheat. We are mostly vegetarian but so are the baked goods. No food coloring was used in either.
posted by redlines at 6:05 PM on March 16

From what you have described it sounds like pretty straightforward food poisoning rather than an ingredient sensitivity. Although your friends may be hygienic, poor food handing and preparation practices are common in home kitchens. I think a lot of generally hygienic and well-meaning folks slip up on adequate hand and surface washing, using separate cutting boards, and safe food storage. If you and your child seem particularly sensitive, it might be worth staying away from outside food gifts. (Children under 5 are at higher risk of food poisoning in general so it probably wouldn't hurt to be careful.)
Also, in case you haven't heard, norovirus has been spreading quite a bit in recent months. (Although what you described sounds more like food borne illness.)
posted by fies at 6:06 PM on March 16 [4 favorites]

That's awfully strange. If it had been hamburgers, or deli meat pinwheels, I'd have said that is obviously due to incorrect food handling.

But muffins? I guess, maybe, if you had a cutting board that wasn't washed properly after someone used it to cut meat, and then you tapped the hot muffins out of the pan onto the cutting board (or counter?) then you could get nasties on them that way. But how else would they even get in there after the baking? Muffins bake for 20 minutes in a pretty hot oven, so even if somehow there had been contamination in the batter, I would think it would bake out. Maybe a dirty plate? Or hands? I guess that's possible... I've seen people do some shockingly unsafe stuff in their own kitchens.

I can't comment on mochi as I've never made it and don't know the process.
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:51 PM on March 16 [3 favorites]

Are those recipes a lot fattier than what you usually eat? That could explain diarrhea, and then the other symptoms are you feeling crummy from that.
posted by momus_window at 7:04 PM on March 16 [8 favorites]

The major unusual ingredient in the mochi which might also have been in the muffins is coconut. Coconut milk in the mochi, and people often bake muffins with coconut oil. Could you have a sensitivity to coconutt?
The other unusual ingredient in the mochi is passion fruit for the glaze. Although you probably would have made the connection if the muffins used passion fruit, there are related fruits (even bananas) that can cause the same reaction as you'd have if you were sensitive to passion fruit.
posted by rainy day girl at 7:13 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]

Your friends could be doing something that seems hygienic but actually increases the risk of food poisoning,

like washing eggs before putting them away in the fridge;

or rinsing raw chicken under the kitchen tap.

Rinsing raw chicken under the kitchen tap = aerosolises germs all over the kitchen, including kitchen counters, any mixing bowls that are out on the kitchen counters, etc.
posted by chariot pulled by cassowaries at 7:18 PM on March 16

Another possibility: has the city where you live had a major power outage recently?

Am wondering if an unscrupulous grocery store has sold butter that should have been thrown away after a power outage.
posted by chariot pulled by cassowaries at 7:20 PM on March 16

The worst food poisoning my family has ever had was from a homemade birthday cake.
posted by gryphonlover at 7:20 PM on March 16

I think it’s probably something else you ate at home.
posted by haptic_avenger at 7:25 PM on March 16 [15 favorites]

Any chance that the 3 year old is picking up something at a day care or play date and then passing it along to you (as a potential primary caregiver?) but your husband ate it later/a part the kid didn’t touch and therefore didn’t get sick?
posted by raccoon409 at 7:26 PM on March 16 [11 favorites]

I think haptic_avenger has it. It's really tempting to blame processed (baked, fried, sautéed, stewed, etc) food from outside sources, but I think salad and other raw fruits and vegetables from all sources are often to blame. I say this as a vegetarian who has never been made sick from undercooked animal products (though cross-contamination is always a possibility), but has likely been sickened by crudités, fruit plates or salads.

Perhaps you and your kiddo are more likely to eat prepackaged fruit or veggies that could have been exposed to something nasty? Maybe you had a bag of apples, carrots or other longlasting produce that were contaminated and you ate them raw as at-home snacks?
posted by annaramma at 7:38 PM on March 16 [8 favorites]

I wouldn't rule out coincidences, but I see that you specifically mentioned savory take out. I sometimes find that sugary food makes me feel really gross, especially if I haven't had much on a routine basis for a while: I prefer to have fruit to satisfy my sweet tooth. For example, I can usually split a dessert at a restaurant with my husband and be just fine, but if I have one to myself I can get nauseated. Sometimes the feeling lingers for a day and then nothing sits right in my tummy--maybe that's psychosomatic but the results are real enough.
posted by ghost phoneme at 7:07 AM on March 17

Also, some people are just hardier. Many times over the years my parents have eaten out in same place, eating same thing, and only one of them - usually the same one - got food poisoning. The other, I don't if they've been gi sick more than once in their whole life that I can remember hearing about. Obviously they could be underreporting the facts. : ) Still, I have heard similar tales from many people over time. I suspect some people just have tougher microbiomes, or optimized stomach/mouth digestion than the rest of us.
posted by bitterkitten at 7:10 AM on March 17 [2 favorites]

Still could be an allergy. I see no reason it couldn't be, those were similar symptoms for me when small...however, hard to say to what.
posted by tiny frying pan at 8:06 AM on March 17

Seconding that some people are just tougher. My sister once had two bites of an apple pie that had gone over and suffered the most violent episode of food poisoning of her life. Her guy friend ate the entire rest of the pie with no ill effects.
posted by SamanthaK at 11:05 AM on March 17

Artificial sweeteners and even natural alt sweeteners tear some people up.

Also, could just be the fat and sugar load if you never eat sweets.
posted by kapers at 2:50 PM on March 17

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