A Man Died After Eating Pasta Left On The Kitchen Bench For Five Days

A 20-year-old student from Belgium has passed away from liver failure after eating leftover spaghetti.

The man, known as 'AJ,' decided to tuck into a bowl of reheated pasta and tomato sauce that he'd left at room temperature for five days.

Ten hours later the man became ill and passed away in his sleep. An autopsy later revealing his food had been contaminated by a toxic bacteria called Bacillus cereus which caused his liver to shut down.

The scary thing is that AJ likely had no idea that his pasta was 'bad' just by looking at it or giving it a sniff.

He's not the only one.

In 2017, there were 5.4 million cases of food poisoning in Australia -- that's close to a quarter of the total population. Many were able to ride the wave of vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal cramps and headaches at home but some 1.2 million were sick enough to visit their GP.

Some cases ended up proving fatal -- around 120 people died.

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Scarily the most common cause of food poisoning -- two types of bacteria called Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes -- are near undetectable unless you have a petri dish and a microscope on hand.

The best way to avoid food poisoning is to prevent contamination in the first place.

So, with that in mind, here are a few key rules to keep in mind to avoid making yourself -- or your loved ones -- sick at dinner time.

In 2017, there were 5.4 million cases of food poisoning in Australia. Image: Getty.
Keep It Clean

When it comes to washing hands a quick splash under the tap will not get rid of germs. Make sure you take the time to give your hands a good 15 to 20 second scrub with soap and running water before you handle any food, and after you’ve used the bathroom or handled rubbish.

According to SA Health, hand hygiene is one of the "most effective ways of stopping the spread of infection".

Clean surfaces and utensils with warm soapy water before and after touching meat especially raw poultry to stop the spread of bacteria. Opt for acrylic or plastic cutting boards instead of wood as the latter is a breeding ground for bacteria.


Thaw meat and poultry in its original packaging, unopened, and always in the fridge. Pop the meat/poultry in a dish large enough to catch all the juices that come out -- that's where the salmonella lies.

Ensure the juices do not seep out and contaminate any other food, and once defrosted, store in the fridge for no more than two days.

A note on poultry -- Don't give your chicken or turkey a rinse in cold water before you start prepping it for the oven as this spreads chains of Salmonella bacteria around the kitchen sink, where they can contaminate other foods.

Instead, blot the bird inside and out with paper towels and never leave uncooked poultry at room temperature for more than two hours.

A note on eggs -- Look out for cracked and dirty eggs when you're at the supermarket -- salmonella can often be lurking on the surface, according to NSW Health.

Raw eggs are usually safe to eat if they've been handled correctly before they make it to your trolley but beware of scoffing that raw cookie dough during your baking session.

“Consuming products containing undercooked eggs and spreading germs in the kitchen are the most common sources of salmonellosis outbreaks in NSW,” Dr Vicky Sheppeard, the Director of Communicable Diseases at NSW Health said.

Salmonella can often be lurking on the shell of cracked and dirty eggs. Image: Getty.

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Only cooking has the power to kill certain pathogens so it's a good idea to make sure that what you're cooking is done properly.

Turkey, for example, should be above 75 degrees in the centre before serving and the juices must run clear when you give it a stab with a knife. Look out for pink meat when you cut the thickest part of the thigh -- that means it needs more time in the oven.

A note on eating raw meat -- dishes like sashimi and steak tartare can pose more of a food poisoning risk and should be avoided by vulnerable individuals including pregnant women nutritionist and chef Zoe Bingley-Bullin told 10 daily.

"If these foods are prepared correctly and stored at the correct temperature, they should not lead to food poisoning simply because they are served raw -- be mindful of who you are purchasing the dish off and know these foods may come with some increased risk," she said.

Serving and storing

"The general rule to be sure food is safe is ‘keep it cold, keep it hot, or make it quick’," Food Standards Australia New Zealand manager Lorraine Haase told 10 daily.

Basically, cold food should be kept cold -- below five degrees -- when it's not being eaten, hot food should be kept hot -- above 60 degrees -- and both should be eaten quickly after serving, that is, once they're no longer being kept hot or cold.

That goes for bringing a plate to a picnic or bbq particularly in summer -- make sure your delish salmon hors d'œuvres are chilling in an esky if you've got a long car/train/bus/ferry/plane trip ahead of you.

After your meal, all the leftovers, including rice and pasta, should be put in the fridge -- or frozen -- as soon as they stop steaming, Haase advised.

And when reheating any foods from frozen make sure the food is heated all the way through.

When to bin it

"It’s a good rule of thumb that if food requiring temperature control has been sitting on your table for more than two hours, you should throw it out," said Dr Sheppeard.

Any leftovers should be disposed of after a couple of days -- unless they've been frozen -- and it goes without saying that any food past its use by date should be thrown away, advised Haas.

Keep these golden rules from the NSW Food Authority in mind to avoid giving yourself or your loved ones food poisoning -- bearing in mind that AJ's case was extremely rare according to Haase.

  • Separate raw meat and poultry from cooked and ready to eat food
  • Use clean plates and utensils
  • Perishable foods and meats should be refrigerated as soon as possible after purchasing
  • Cold bags are a good way of keeping cold foods safe on the trip home from the supermarket
  • Meats should be kept separate from foods that won’t be cooked to prevent raw meat juices dripping onto other food
  • Don't pour uncooked meat marinade on ready-to-eat food
  • Constant vigilance

Feature image: Getty.