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Mar 16, 2012 06:16 AM

Etiquette Questions [Do you report sickness from bad food] Moved from Minneapolis-St. Paul Board

Ok, Chowhounders. This is a first for me. A friend and I had dinner last night at a trendy new restaurant that just opened.

I got sick last night. Just learned this am my friend got sick last night.

What's the right thing to do? Report it to the offending establishment?

[I've eaten street food all over the world and I've never gotten sick.]

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  1. I would either call or email. You don't know if you are the only ones (or even if they are the source of the illness), but it's a nice heads up to the restaurant. But I wouldn't ask them for anything or accuse them of anything.

    1. Did you guys have the same thing? Do you see each other regularly? The problem here is that many flus can come on very suddenly and have the same symptoms as you would get from bad food, and you may have gotten sick anyway, regardless where you ate.

      If you both had the same thing, it's worth a phone call to the restaurant. They might not tell you if anyone else called in with the same issue, but it would likely at least cause them to look at whatever the dish might be that's suspect. I think how you talk to them is key - if you accuse them of something, they will be defensive. The rare times I have contacted a restaurant about this, I was very careful not to accuse them of anything, just to let them know that I was there last night and my friend and I both got the ___ and were both sick all evening, and that it may have just been an unfortunate coincidence with a flu arrival or something, but you thought they should know about it since you both felt quite well before the meal. Don't infer or anything, just let them know. JMO of course.

      2 Replies
      1. re: rockandroller1

        I agree with what RnR1 said. Particularly since many types of food-related sicknesses take longer to come on than a few hours. Plus, that nasty noro-virus has been going around for the past few months.

        1. re: rockandroller1

          s/flu/illnesses .... The colloquial usage of "the flu" to imply any sort of sickness is exactly why people complain that the influenza vaccine doesn't work.

          That said, you're exactly correct. Most often when people blame something they ate, it's *not* something that they ate.

        2. Yes, let them know. They need the information so they can review their procedures. and, by the way, most undiagnosed "flu" is really food poisoning. Yes, there are some nasty bugs going around, but most people just chalk up their "flu" (the bathroom kind) as a virus. Influenza is a respiratory condition, not intestinal.
          I suspect it was food poisoning, somebody may not have washed their hands.

          4 Replies
          1. re: wyogal

            For some ACCURATE food poisoning facts Here is the link to the Mayo Clinic's page about types and onset of Symptoms. As you can see, most take more that several hours and some take days. There are multiple causes as well. Good, accurate info is always available by doing a search.


            A Norovirus infection is just as likely a cause as R&R1 noted above. Here is a link with information on that.

            If you feel that something you both ate caused your physical distress, I think an email (if you have the address) is easiest. You can just lay out your case and avoid any discussion that may become confrontational or upsetting.

            1. re: Quine

              I assume you are replying to the OP? I know how to access Mayo, thank-you.

              1. re: wyogal

                I posted the links to counter inaccurate and misleading statements. Sometimes bad info can be like food poisoning,

              2. re: Quine

                Thanks for the words of caution. Noroviruses cause the symptoms many people associate with food poisoning, and are more common than many think - there was an outbreak at a high school in San Francisco less than a month ago..

                Back to the original question, I don't seem any harm in calling the restaurant and letting them know you had some bad reactions.

            2. I've never understood how people can attribute sickness to a certain meal.

              12 Replies
              1. re: LeoLioness

                My mom had a fish dish at a restaurant. Soon after felt really ill. Called restaurant the next and learned that it was escolar.Had no hard feelings towards the restaurant and was relieved to learn that it wasn't the restaurant, but an ingredient that was the issue. Restaurant said that they had received multiple calls and would no longer serve fish. Ate a "different" fish at a different restaurant. Soon after felt really ill. Called the restaurant the next day and learned that butterfish is escolar. Now avoids all fish that isn't really identifiable at restaurants. Wouldn't have thought to look up the other names if she hadn't called the restaurant.

                My mother also ate a shrimp dish at a restaurant. Felt sick. Called and found out that the restaurant hadn't received any other complaints about the shrimp. So she assumed that she had probably developed an allergy. Later confirmed allergy after a hospital visit after eating shrimp at a different restaurant.

                1. re: viperlush

                  that's interesting; our winter farmer's market has a fish stand that I buy fish from nearly every week; last week they had just run out of "Butter Fish". Wonder if it was this Escolar. I've never had any trouble with any fish, but not sure if I've ever had that variety.

                  1. re: DGresh

                    Butterfish is another term for escolar. It's also called "white tuna" at sushi places. I've eaten it in small quantities, but after finding out it's "side-effects," I stopped eating it.


                    1. re: Jackie007

                      Now that you mention it, I think I did have it as sushi in Providence last fall. I don't recall any ill effects, but of course it was a small amount.

                      1. re: Jackie007

                        Also called walu in Hawai'i. The first time I had it, the fishmonger told me to either broil or bake it - and not to use any additional fat. The most recent time was in a restaurant where it was sauteed - my GI tract didn't like that.

                    2. re: viperlush

                      Before everyone gives Butter Fish/Escolar a bad name here, consider this response posted to the link Jackie007 posted. There are TWO types of Escolar/Butter Fish, and only one causes those symptoms:

                      "There are in fact two different species of Escolar. In the fishing industry they are known as SMOOTH SKIN (Lepidocybium Flavobrunneum) and ROUGH SKIN (Ruvettus Pretiosus) Escolar, the latter (Rough Skin) being the much cheaper yet problematic fish causing the purgative problems mentioned in so many other posts. It is such a pity these two different fish species have been lumped together as it is an amazing eating as well as environmentally sustainable fish to consume."

                      1. re: viperlush

                        I find it fascinating that Japan restricts the sale of escolar, as they regard it as toxic, but allows the sale of fugu (puffer).

                        1. re: sunshine842

                          For the sake of being accurate :

                          "Fugu is a delicacy which only licensed chefs are allowed to prepare in Japan. An approximately three year apprenticeship is required before a chef is allowed to take the examination to ensure they have the proper skills to prepare the dish safely. Approximately 70% of the applicants fail their examination, which is quite complicated; however this ensures that only the most skilled and knowledgeable of applicants become certified for the task." from: http://www.sushifaq.com/sushi-sashimi...

                          And : "The restaurant preparation of fugu is strictly controlled by the law in Japan and several other countries, and only chefs who have qualified through rigorous training are allowed to deal with the fish."
                          from : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fugu
                          K? Just saying.

                          1. re: Quine

                            I know all of that.

                            But that's my whole point -- that it's completely legal to sell fish which requires that much training to be able to prepare without killing someone, yet a panfried piece of escolar/butterfish is illegal because the escolar is considered toxic.

                      2. re: LeoLioness

                        I've been really sick after eating a meal. It was a potluck at work. I was truly ill for hours that night. It was no fun. I know I had no fever, only the the constant violent pushing out of bodily fluids. It was awful.

                        1. re: LeoLioness

                          "I've never understood how people can attribute sickness to a certain meal"

                          Its very hard to do so unless more than one person who ate at the same establishment at the same time also got sick. That is why its so important to report any suspected foodborne illnesses to the Health Dept, IMO.

                          1. re: LeoLioness

                            If you've never dealt with it, I can understand it...but once you've been down that rocky road?

                            I have had a couple of bouts -- one with a plate of bad oysters, and another with a serving of spaghetti and meatballs.

                            Both happened to be the only thing I'd eaten that day -- which may well have increased the issues...but there is no doubt that the horrid purging I suffered came from the dishes in question.

                          2. If I was seriously sick, I'd report this to the Health Dept. so there is a record of this. It might be important later. However with a bad case of diarrhea or throwing up, I'd call and tell the restaurant. I would do this especially if you guys ate the same food. If you ate totally different dishes, then I'd think back and make sure you think your illness was due to the food at the resto. Make sure of your facts first. The resto will probably blow you off, by the way.

                            You might consider being tested for Hepatitus A. .

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: sueatmo

                              My opinion is that people should call the local Health Dept if they think they might have food poisoning from eating out. If it was from the food, others would likely have gotten ill, too. If the Health Dept receives multiple complaints about a given establishment, they will check it out.

                              Of course, this only works if most people report what they suspect might be foodborne illness. That is why I think people ought to report to Health Dept even if they aren't sure.

                              I wouldn't call the restaurant myself because I lack confidence that most establishments would do the right thing. I'd let the Health Dept handle it. Its what they are there for.