This Student Died After Eating 5-Day-Old Pasta Leftovers — Here’s The Truth

Leftover Spaghetti

Money is often hard to come by — especially for a student. Any campus event that offers up free food suddenly becomes the weekend highlight, and hoarding is just something we learn to do. But however thrifty we aim to be, it’s important to always remember to think about food safety. Otherwise, your lunch may literally be a life or death situation.

A 20-year-old, who has been left unnamed, died after eating pasta that was left out for five days at room temperature. It’s unclear whether or not they had a mini-fridge to store it, or simply just didn’t think it’d cause much harm. Unfortunately, bacteria (Bacillus cereus, common in food poisoning cases) grew on the meal that ended up being fatal.

Insider reports that the student, who originated from Belgium, tried to save both money and time by preparing meals on Sunday to last throughout the week. While meal planning is very important (and meal prepping is a great way to be efficient with your time and well being), so is proper food storage. That pasta went into a plastic container to be reheated throughout the week. By day five, his unrefrigerated container had a different taste to it.

That should have been a warning sign, but the student reportedly chalked it up to a different flavor of sauce used. Within 30 minutes of eating the tainted pasta, the student experienced severe abdominal pain and signs of food poisoning, including diarrhea and vomiting.

That night, the student passed away in his sleep. His death took place approximately 10 hours after he consumed the meal.

Instead of going to the hospital, the student drank water and tried to sleep the sickness off — which is what many of us have done in a case of bad food poisoning. And most of the time, that’s not an irresponsible course of action. If we decided to drive ourselves to urgent care anytime we felt sick to our stomachs, we’d easily rack up thousands of dollars in medical bills — and advice from doctors to just drink water, Gatorade, and rest. But in this case, the student’s decision to self-medicate was a deadly one.

The story is upsetting for a handful of reasons. For one, those who know about food safety probably assumed he’d get food poisoning, but they likely didn’t think he’d actually pass away.

Others feel as if refrigeration is just common knowledge. Shouldn’t a student know by now that food needs to be properly stored?

Food storage often changes a little based on location. For example, many Europeans don’t refrigerate their eggs, which is an act that’d make all Americans a little queasy. That’s because the way eggs are processed and washed in America is vastly different.

But still, regardless of where the food was prepared, you can imagine pasta sitting out at room temperature not being very appetizing. That fact alone is making a lot of people stop in their tracks when hearing the story.

But the sad news is, some people could actually relate. Who hasn’t munched on some leftover pizza from the night before that sat on the kitchen table overnight?

That’s why it’s important that this grim story gets out there. Who knows how many other accidental deaths it could prevent?

This story also proves that it’s great to have people who’ll check up on you. This student was found fairly quickly, after his parents realized he didn’t get out of bed to attend classes. They checked in on him at 11 a.m., but by that point, it was already too late. That discovery must have been devastating.


So, even though the story seems insane internet-fodder, remember — someone did die, so it’s important to show compassion. A few even noted that FOX used a pretty degrading photo to accompany the piece, perhaps taking away the fact that it’s a serious story. The student was officially diagnosed with liver necrosis when the autopsy results returned, meaning that his liver had shut down.

Now, if the story has one good thing going for it, it’s this. The whole event reportedly happened 10 years ago, and just started circulating in the news this month.

That means that situations like this aren’t all that common — there have only been four reported cases of death from this bacteria. But that doesn’t mean you still shouldn’t be careful. Is that old pasta (or old anything) worth the risk?

If you’re a little nervous, remember that it’s better to be safe than sorry. According to StillTasty, spaghetti sauce that has been refrigerated prior will last around seven to 10 days in the fridge after you open it. It can last up to six months if you freeze it properly.

When in doubt, make sure to smell it before you eat it. Bad sauce will give off a bad odor. For this student, playing it safe and not taking that risk would have literally saved his life.

Sometimes, we can take food for granted. While we need it to live, we also need to make sure we follow all the rules.

Food poisoning is annoying enough, but you probably never assumed that you could die if you don’t take that one step of putting leftovers in the fridge.

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