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Food poisoning question

Is it possible for 2 people to eat the exact same meal and one have food poisoning and the other feels fine? I had a friend over for dinner last night (younger and probably healthier person than me) and she said she was up all night in the bathroom with the runs and throwing up and is still sick as a dog. I feel perfectly fine. She wasn't trying to pin it on me but I feel responsible anyway. Could I have poisoned her?

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  1. Could you have? Sure. One piece of food could be tainted and another not. But it's MUCH more likely that she caught it from someone she'd come in contact with during the day. People regularly blame food when it's not the culprit at all.

    1. yup. everyone has different levels of immunity and sensitivity, and what may send one person to the bathroom for 24 hours may not have the slightest impact on someone else. it all depends on what you've been exposed to before, and how hardy your defenses are.

      then again, your friend could have gotten sick from something else to which you WEREN'T exposed...lunch, perhaps?

      1. I concur with c_oliver and ghg. Your friend may have (indeed, probably did) gotten sick elsewhere (perhaps not even food--she may have touched a dirty doorknob or something). I would not assume it was your food. Also, food poisoning doesn't necessarily strike that immediately.

        3 Replies
        1. re: nofunlatte

          Only time I've had food poisoning in the past 5 years, was when I went out to lunch with 7 other coworkers. 3 of us had the tuna steak sandwich. I was done 2 hours after lunch, 1 coworker was fine til she got home (5 hours later), 3rd one never had an issue. None of the other 5 folks got ill at all.

          Proves nothing other than that pretty much every reply here is somewhat correct.

          1. re: L2k

            This was DH and I a few weeks ago. He was sick about an hour after eating some Vietanmese we order I was sick 5 hours later. It was the only thing we ate that was the same that day. So I assumed it was that. Not 100% but, I do know that he has always had a sensitive tummy. He was sick for 3 days. Never realized I had a stomach like a rock....well, almost :S

            1. re: livetocook

              Being married, you would naturally be susceptible to illnesses brought home from work or wherever, it's so rare that you get sick from something you ate an hour ago.. i'm guessing you were both exposed to something some other place.

        2. There are only 2 food poisoning pathogens that show symptoms in less than 8 hours--salmonella and shigella. All others take at least 8 hours to express themselves. Sick that night from dinner? Not super likely.

          2 Replies
          1. re: runwestierun

            Staphylococcal "food poisoning" which is caused by a toxin produced by the bacteria has a very rapid onset of symptoms.

            1. re: runwestierun

              Yep...staph is one of the most common, and it comes on very quickly.

            2. Yes, it's possible. The type of food poisoning is the key in most cses. Botulism, for example, is always is spread throughout whatever food was subject to the conditions that brought it about, so it doesn't matter whether you have a bit from the top or a bit from the botton, it's all going to bite you hard. Sometimes VERY hard! Avoid botulism!

              Salmonella grows in colonies but will take a bit of time to reach uniform density throughout a dish. A large tray of potato salad set out at a buffet or picnic may have a salmonella colony growing at the top left corner, and ONLY people who eat from that section OR serve themselves with a spoon that has just been used in that section will get sick. The spoon will eventually help spread the salmonella all over. Somebody needs to invent some sort of "3D glasses" that allows you to see where the salmonella is partying!

              But yes, it's possible for people to have the same thing for lunch and only one of them get ill.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Caroline1

                Wow, that's very helpful information to me! Several years ago my office had a food day with a picnic theme for a Thursday lunch. Beginning Friday night and throughout the cursed three-day weekend, most of us got sick to varying degrees (I was one of the worst), but some didn't get very sick, and 2 didn't get sick at all. We tried so hard to figure it out and never could.

              2. Yes. You can have two persons eat exactly the same thing and one get overrun by the bacteria and the other is not. This is same as many virus and bacteria. cold, flu, HAV, ... Let's have a very simple example, you go to foreign country and drink local water and get sick, while everyone who live in the village is fine with the same water.

                This, of course, does not prove anything between you and your friend.

                Don't worry about it. You either didn't poison her, or you made her stronger.

                1. Entirely possible. In addition to the possibility that one portion of food was more tainted than another, it's even possible for two different people to have different susceptibilities to the same degree of exposure (based on factors like immuno-suppression, the bacteria already inhabiting one's GI tract, or elevated stomach pH - perhaps she's on antacids).

                  That said, her hands were as likely the culprit as the food, given that you felt fine afterward. Aside from practicing safe technique in the future, I wouldn't worry too much about it.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: cowboyardee

                    One more reason that people should not abuse antacids, aside from other side effects. Some people need them, while others pop them in for every meal.

                  2. It is possible, however, it's more likely that the poisoning was contracted at some earlier point. As others have said, different types of food poisoning take different amounts of time to kick in.

                    It could be a good old fashioned stomach virus, too. It's hard to tell.

                    1. Well thanks for all your answers. Somehow I still feel responsible although it might just be a coincidence. I even ate the leftovers last night and didn't get sick. It was grilled shrimp w/cilantro & basil pesto, watermelon/feta/arugula salad and coconut brown rice. I served it family style so we both ate from the same pile. I guess it is possible that out of a lb. of shrimp she got a tainted one & I didn't.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: sparkareno

                        It's also possible that she's allergic to one of the ingredients and so had the bad reaction. I am allergic to abalone and end up throwing up profusely a few hours after consuming it. So I don't consume it anymore.

                        1. re: 512window

                          Yes allergy can be likely and it can happen at any point in your like. Since I've been an adult didn't ones have been sneaking up on me. I had a mango, randomly one night and was puking 2hr after eating it. I looked it up and realized it's a fruit that's link with other allergies and that one of the symptoms of an anaphylactic response is vomiting

                      2. Throw & Go? Sounds like a norovirus. That would not show up the night after eating dinner, but from contact earlier. If it is norovirus, be aware that she would still be very contagious for a couple of days after symptoms abate, unlike other some other viruses (this is one reason why norovirus is so contagious - people think they are no longer contagious, but still are).

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: Karl S

                          I don't know if it's just a CH phenom but it seems that most people here are convinced these things are food poisoning whereas most public health professionals would call it noro-type virus. That's what people get on cruise shiips. They get it from one another not from tainted food.

                          1. re: c oliver

                            Yes. And the reason they get it so easily is that people who suffer it go out in public too quickly after symptoms abate. It's hard for people to quarantine themselves for a couple of days when they are no longer symptomatic, but that's what they (and their loved ones and bosses) should force them to do.

                            You don't have to get norovirus on a cruise ship, but a cruise ship is simply a contained environment where people feel especially oppressed by self-quarantine (because they feel they are wasting money by staying in cabin - and sea-sickness doesn't help keep people in cabins, either).

                            If you're suffering from Throw and Go, don't have a violent temperature or other symptoms, and come close or to the point of dehydration, quarantine yourself for at least a couple of days after symptoms abate (with the exception of going to the ER to get hydrated if need be).

                            1. re: c oliver

                              Part of the problem is the nature of the illness - intuition tells us that stomach illness comes from food. To add another layer to the confusion, it's entirely possible to get norovirus from tainted food. The only time I've ever had food borne illness it was norovirus. 1/2 the people in my division at work got sick (about 30 people) all within the same 2-3 hour period, about 24 hours after a work related breakfast. The health department investigated and determined we all had norovirus and they were able to ID a contaminated fruit platter (and the still contagious caterer who put it together) as the source.

                              1. re: c oliver

                                I was attending a large conference at a good Dominican Republic hotel. People came down like flies. The food was the obvious culprit. It caught me - and I've never had food poisoning in my life.

                                Except it wasn't. It was a virus. Most people remained unaware, both during and after, of the cause.

                            2. I have had a few experiences where I got really (REALLY) sick from food yet my guy didn't and we ate the same stuff. Some people (like me) have a much more sensitive stomach. Although, if you're the person being accused of doing the poisoning, I guess you wouldn't want to hear that! Maybe your friend's threshold for bacteria is too low.

                              12 Replies
                              1. re: grouchomarx

                                There's another possibility: you may not have gotten sick from the food but from something else.

                                1. re: Karl S

                                  Karl S, your response makes me giggle! Because on one or two of those occasions, I thought, hmm, did I maybe drink too much? But, that was after the first trip to the bathroom. When it goes on all night, you know it's the food. But I get what you're saying. Once, we had a friend invite us over for a bbq, just 4 of us. He handled raw red meat, rubbing a marinade all over it, then proceeded to wipe his hands with a paper towel and go about his business, NEVER washing his hands with soap and water! I didn't necessarily expect to get sick (I'm not a kitchen/cooking germophobe, I don't bust out the bleach after I handle chicken, for example) but wow, was I super sick that night, all night. And somehow, my guy, who was there with me eating all the same stuff, was just fine. I just chalk it up to having a weak stomach with low tolerance for bacteria/viruses.

                                  1. re: grouchomarx

                                    It may have been a prior meal. Most food poisoning bacteria take longer to incubate than people realize. If you're sick within a few hours of dinner, then lunch, breakfast or the meals of the prior day are more likely culprits. But people intuitively assume that whatever they ate last is the likeliest culprit.

                                    1. re: Karl S

                                      Or perhaps the Fedex person who delivered a package or the neighbor from next door that they were visiting across the fence with. Or a gazillion other possibilities. And to groucho..., I'd suggest that you drop off a stool specimen at your doctor's office and have them send it out to the lab. You may have a low-grade, asymptomatic (most of the time) infection that gets bumped up due to who knows what? Things like this do occur and are generally easily treated.

                                      1. re: c oliver

                                        When you get food poisoning you just know. The amount of time it takes to react, the way you react, and how long you react for. Norovirus doesn't clear up by the next morning. Anyway that's my 2 cents on the matter, having been burned just a few times in my life. I would describe it as unmistakable because it's unlike any kind of flu/virus, upset stomach, or anything else. It's your body telling you that it's going to purge to keep you from dying!

                                          1. re: c oliver

                                            You always act like food posioning is the absolute remotest of possibilities. We get that there are a number of things that can cause you to get ill that may have nothing to do with food, but food poisoning is also very possible. It's possible just like all of the other reasons you like to give that a person could get ill.

                                          2. re: grouchomarx

                                            I would argue that it's not necessarily the type of illness that might indicate that you are getting food poisoning more easily than others than the fact that you've had it occur more frequently than others. Like you, I've had food poisoning a number of times now - but I'm not sure what noro-virus feels like, so I have no basis for comparison. But in general, I have a very, very sensitive stomach, much more than almost everyone else I know, so it's not such a big leap to think that people like you and me might get food poisoning more easily than others. And c. oliver may be right - there might be a low-grade persistent issue going on (for me too, for that matter) that 'flares' with the right combination of stimuli (inlcuding, possibly, low bacterial loads in foods that might not affect others). The human digestive system can be a tricky beast.

                                            Or maybe I just need to stop kissing the FedEx guy.

                                            1. re: Cachetes

                                              I think your last option should be your last resort :)

                                            2. re: grouchomarx

                                              I so agree, you just know. Your body is not just talking to you, it is screaming at you. I am lucky, it has happened only 3 times in my life. Zuppa de clams in New Haven, steamers in Scranton, smoked marlin in Mazatlan. Wretching with convulsions on the floor after each event, then completely normal the next day, save for some sore muscles.

                                              1. re: Veggo

                                                Spot on description. The sore muscles! That's definitely it also, and the feeling the next day that your digestive system is walking on egg shells.

                                                1. re: Cachetes

                                                  Mine stomach the next day feels like I've been on a bender but, then I do get really dehydrated just like I drank myself stupid

                                  2. Last winter I had a 2-day bout that was just intestinal - no nausea or vomiting, although the last thing I wanted to do was eat. It really wiped me out although I drank Pedialyte and forced myself to eat yogurt. I live alone and had not been in contact with anyone, or out of the house, for the previous week with the exception of a trip to the blood lab and supermarket 3 days before becoming ill. I'd prepared all my meals. Two were fish and at first I thought I'd let the second portioncool on the counter too long before refrigerating, but lack of nausea made me doubt that. So the following month, when I returned to the lab, I asked if anyone there had been sick a month before. The phlebotomist didn't even let me finish the question before telling me how ill she, and most of the staff, had been in the days preceding my prior visit. They didn't try to determine the pathogen, which I found odd given that it's a medical venue, increasing the likelihood that people in precarious health were being exposed.

                                    1. http://www.medic8.com/healthguide/art...

                                      If you scroll down to what are the most common food-borne diseases, it gives some good, concise and understandable info.

                                      1. <<Is it possible for 2 people to eat the exact same meal and one have food poisoning>>

                                        We should also examine the expression 'food poisoning' . Eating something that causes someone else (though not you) to throw up could be a definition. I've known people who up-chuck if a meal contains a certain ingredient. Some have allergies and intolerances. Others cannot take large quantities of fats, wine, peppers, pickles. etc. Your blood type can affect how you respond to a norovirus. Some have higher levels of immunity due to previous encounters. It may even be the amount of soil they ate as a child. It could be a fungus like ergot, or a virus, or a toxin or the thing we immediately suspect which is bacterial contamination.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: Paulustrious

                                          Except this wasn't just throwing up one time. She was fine at dinner---woke up in the middle of the night with the runs several times and was throwing up the next day and barely able to get out of bed. Me--everything normal.

                                          1. re: Paulustrious

                                            I was thinking along the same line. My SO is allergic to carrageenan, which is in an ever growing array of foods. When SO consumes it the symptoms hit fast (20 - 40 min.) and furious and continue for 24 hours or more. No vomiting, but intestinal distress, runs and sometimes fever.

                                            I had a similar reaction to too much fat which caught me off guard. Paid for that binge big time!

                                          2. Good question... I can remember two pretty bad stomach flu upsets after restaurant meals - one in San Antonio and one in Malta... both times it was the last meal of the trip and both times I made it home to Boston before I got sick. Others got sick too - 4 of the six at dinner in TX and about half of the 60+ folks in Malta. I had a 24 hour stopover in London after the Malta trip and so didn't even consider it was anything I ate in Malta until I found out that so many other folks had been sick too, and after about the same amount of time. Was it food poisoning or a nonovirus? I'll never know.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: pasuga

                                              WHERE in San Antonio did you eat???

                                              1. re: tgordo49

                                                Sorry, it was over ten years ago and I was visiting friends. Did you have a bad experience recently?