The bag came with three servings. Why should I avoid the third?
October 2, 2007 7:16 AM   Subscribe

What could be causing this weird reaction to frozen pasta?

So, I hate to cook, and as such I eat a lot of premade food from Trader Joe's. Last night, for the second time, I had their red pesto farfalle. The last time I ate it (first time ever), a few hours later I got a headache in my right temple so severe it made me nauseated and weepy. I also had an elevated pulse all night (well, I had an elevated pulse before I went to sleep and had a dream where I was drinking caffeinated drink after caffeinated connect the dots) and felt weird and shaky the next day. I didn't associate it with the pasta.

However, last night I ate it and felt the beginnings of the same damn headache - same location, same general feeling. I took two tylenols and drank about half a liter of water and went to bed. This morning, I feel not as bad as I did last time, but still sort of bad and with the remnants of a headache.

My best guess is that this is a high sodium food (400 mg/serving) that just dehydrated the heck out of me, but I eat a lot of Trader Joe's products and many of them have more sodium. Here are the ingredients:

Parcooked pasta (water, durum wheat semolina, salt), tomato pulp, walnuts, pecorino romano cheese (pasteurized milk, salt, rennet), grana cheese (pasteurized milk, salt, rennet, lysozyme (enzyme from egg white)), basil, sunflower seed oil, garlic, tapioca starch, sugar, chili powder.

Doesn't look too sinister, right? I think I've had all these things before with the possible exception of grana cheese. Any thoughts?
posted by crinklebat to Food & Drink (12 answers total)
Best answer: It is entirely possible that the ingredient list doesn't show everything in the package. Large food packers make careless mistakes very often. The package most likely has a lot code on it somewhere, and you should report this to Trader Joes as soon as you can.

And stop eating that pasta!
posted by kuujjuarapik at 7:22 AM on October 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

Two things come to mind:

1) That there's MSG in there somewhere, either added artificially or naturally occurring in the cheese, and this is causing your headache. If I eat too much MSG, I will definitely end up with the symptoms you describe.

2) That you're allergic to one of the components, with walnuts being the most obvious.
posted by fuzzbean at 7:42 AM on October 2, 2007

maybe the pecorino romano cheese? A lot of migraine suffers avoid hard or aged cheeses because they contain the food additives tryamine and sulfites.

A possibly painful experiment you could conduct would be to ate some of the stuff by itself (the cheese, that is), and wait to see if you develop the same pain.
posted by buka at 7:58 AM on October 2, 2007

eh, that should be *sufferers.*
posted by buka at 7:59 AM on October 2, 2007

My mother has a similar reaction to MSG. Apart from that, quit eating that pasta!
posted by tomble at 8:02 AM on October 2, 2007

I'd totally guess migraine. Could be the MSG;. My mom, who gets migraines, has trouble sometimes with red foods -- (pizza sauce, red wine, who knows what the connection is!) But you said it was red pesto, so that brought this to mind.
posted by wyzewoman at 8:06 AM on October 2, 2007

I had to stop eating Lean Cuisines because I was getting headaches every day. I can eat other brands of low-cal meals, but there's something (and I never figured out what) in LCs that is a headache trigger for me.

Avoid that third serving!
posted by Sweetie Darling at 8:15 AM on October 2, 2007

Response by poster: So, just a quick note: I have eaten walnuts and pecorino romano many times with no ill effects at all. I drink red wine regularly, and have never had issues with it or any other red food. And I freaking love MSG.

I think I'll probably report this to Trader Joe's per kuujjuarapik's suggestion since it seems like nothing else other than accidental adulteration is plausible. Thanks for all the ideas though! I think it was probably a migraine but still have no idea where it came from.
posted by crinklebat at 8:43 AM on October 2, 2007

Best answer: If you are so inclined, you can also take the package back to your local TJs for a refund. I recently emailed their corporate offices to complain about wildly varying degrees of saltiness in their frozen noodle bowl meals and they urged me to return the remainder of the product to the store; if you do so, you'll have the option to fill out a complaint form. (They also wrote they would forward my email to the QA manager for that product line, with or without the returned item).
posted by jamaro at 9:47 AM on October 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the tip, jamaro!
posted by crinklebat at 9:56 AM on October 2, 2007

My own thought: since it was the last serving that gave you the problem, I wonder if some spice, salt, ingredient or other internal condiment "settled" to the bottom of the bag, meaning that the first two servings didn't have much of Ingredient X but the third serving had the entire bag's worth.
posted by WCityMike at 10:22 AM on October 2, 2007

My brother has a violent allergic reaction to the red sauce at Macaroni Grill. I'd never heard of this, but he took the sauce in to his doctor to have it tested and there were traces of wheat strain that he was allergic to but had never had outside of pasta sauce. Weird.
posted by mattbucher at 3:12 PM on October 2, 2007

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