Woman’s Paralysis Is Cautionary Lesson on Food Safety

We’re willing to bet that everyone reading this has left food out overnight and thought, “It’s probably safe to eat this.” However, if food is not properly stored and reheated, it can have dangerous consequences. A 23-year-old woman was left paralyzed from eating leftover soup.

In February, Claudia de Albuquerque Celada was hospitalized with paralysis, dizziness, double vision and shortness of breath. It took two weeks for her to be diagnosed with botulism — a toxin that attacks the nerves. She has remained in the hospital on breathing support ever since.

The toxin was traced to soup in her kitchen. It was store-bought soup. Soup in the supermarket was tested and found to be safe, so the doctors believe Ms. Celada may have left it at room temperature for more than an hour and not heated it thoroughly enough.

The county where she lives said there was “no risk to the public at this time.” As they had traced the source of her illness and knew that others weren’t in danger they wanted people to know they were safe to eat what was in their fridges.

Perishable food should be stored at four degrees Celsius (39 degrees Fahrenheit). Food should be thoroughly cooked or reheated to kill any bacteria.

Symptoms of botulism usually start with the face on the eye, mouth and throat. It can weaken breathing muscles. If you ever feel unwell after eating, you shouldn’t hesitate to call 911, as food poisoning can be fatal.

Botulism is rare. There were 215 cases in 2019. Of those, only 21 came from food. However, other harmful bacteria like toxoplasma gondii, listeria and salmonella can be present.  

When trying to avoid foodborne illnesses, keeping your cooking area clean and handling food correctly is important. For instance, salmonella can get onto food from touching other contaminated food, contaminated kitchen surfaces, and unwashed hands — especially if you may have touched or fed a pet recently.

Storing your food correctly is an essential first step to remaining safe. Thoroughly washing your hands and surfaces is the second step to staying healthy. Cooking or reheating everything to the proper temperature is the final key to enjoying your meal.    

We hope that poor Ms. Celada recovers from her illness. Eating soup shouldn’t have consequences. It’s a terribly sad situation. In the meantime, make sure your own kitchen is in order.

Banner image: Nathan Dumlao via Unsplash

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