On our way to our place in the mountains recently, we stopped at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant in a small town for lunch. I ordered the Calamity Jane Burger, ground beef smothered in mushrooms, onions, jalapeno peppers and Swiss cheese.
I ordered it well done. Halfway through I took a second to look at the patty and it was pink in the middle. Do I send it back, or do I assume that since I was halfway through it any potential exposure to pathogens was already history?
I ate the pink burger, along with what was advertised as “fresh vegetables” that were certainly not crispy fresh. Probably should have left them alone.
Heading on down the road my gut began to let me know it was not feeling well. Thinking back to the pink burger, I had to keep telling myself the incubation time for E coli is 3-7 days and I kept trying to blame the jalapeno peppers and the driving conditions for the uneasy feeling in my belly.
By 6 PM I had muscle aches, fever and chills and was just feeling wasted, along with what now were frequent trips to the bathroom.
I knew I was sick, and began postulating that I had Salmonellosis from a catered-in lunch the day before. 12-48 hours is the usual incubation period and I was in that window. There would be no way I could take the chance of a hike in the mountains if this illness lasted the usual 3-5 days.
Later I suddenly had projectile vomiting with absolutely no warning. It went all over the BR sink as my wife walked in to check on me.
The first thing out of her mouth was: “didn’t your Mother teach you to puke in the toilet instead of the sink?”
I don’t remember if Mom did or not. I think the last time I hurled was probably 45 years ago while in college. This time someone had poisoned me.
But the projectile, spontaneous retching brought me my answer as to cause and length of illness. Unfortunately this new diagnosis was confirmed repeatedly throughout the night. They don’t call this particular foodborne illness the Two Bucket Disease for nothing.
I knew I had been exposed to Staphylococcal aureus enterotoxin. Illness is almost immediate, no incubation time required.
The good news is that this particular illness, although severe during the toxins lifetime in our bodies, usually only lasts 24-36 hours and the trails were doable the next day.
I think it was the “fresh vegetables” that were warm and limp, and had probably been handled by customers and kitchen help on a repeated basis while kept at room temperature. “Just Cook It” does not work in this scenario.
Too often we are at the mercy of someone else handling and preparing our food. So I have a tip for the readers:
Next time you walk into a restaurant at High Noon, and the only customers present are three older ranchers drinking coffee and eating cherry pie, turn around, get back into your car and head on down the road as soon as possible.
Dr. Richard Raymond is the former undersecretary of agriculture for food safety.
Foodborne illness 1—Raymond 0
August 21, 2012 by trackmycrop