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Would you risk it?

So imagine you went out to eat for lunch and ate, and all was well and tasty. Then you went home and started to prep the pork butt for the pulled pork you want to make the next day. You made the rub, coated the meat, covered it in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge. As you did this, you washed your hands diligently and thoroughly as needed.

Later that night, you woke with horrific cramps which moved on to full-on symptoms of food poisoning which lingered throughout the next day. Not able to make the pulled pork that day, you wrap it securely and put it in the freezer.

Later on you find out that one of the cooks at that restaurant had the swine flu, which sometimes adds a lovely component of "GI symptoms" to the usual respiratory complaints, and later that month, you are thoroughly knocked out for a solid week in bed with the flu so you're never certain if you had garden variety food poisoning or a turbo-charged swine flu.

Regardless, the seasoned pork butt is still in the freezer: Do you attempt to thaw it make make pulled pork or do you toss it out, with the assumption that it is contaminated, even though when you touched it, it was before you had symptom one of anything and washed your hands frequently as you always do.

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  1. Yes, because the pork still needs to be cooked.

    1 Reply
    1. re: babette feasts

      Thanks! I'd hate to toss it, but I'd hate even more to make someone sick.

    2. I would be comfortable using it. Pulled pork is cooked for a long time and to a relatively high final temp. I usually cook my pulled pork at 225 but if you want to be extra careful you can do quick sear before going low and slow. This might burn your rub though.

      CDC says that "Influenza viruses can be destroyed by heat (167-212°F [75-100°C])."


      Oh and sorry to hear about that experience. It must have been horrible.

      2 Replies
      1. re: seamunky

        Oh, good. I know that some pathogens are hardy buggers. I usually do this in the crock pot. I guess I'll do it on high.

        And thank you - yes it was one of the worst illnesses I've had, and I've had food poisoning on several different continents. lol Swine flu or food poisoning, it was awful.

        1. re: BabsW

          How was your pulled pork? Do you put sauce in the crock pot with it or some other liquid?

      2. Swine flu doesn't usually infect humans but it can happen. But influenza viruses are real wimps outside the body. Just sitting on a counter they'll die quickly so in a freezer probably even more quickly. And then you're going to cook it.

        1 Reply
        1. Having experienced norovirus from eating the food of a person who turned out to be ill with the same bug, I would recommend tossing it. Especially if you planned on serving it to other people. You do not want to be known as the person who caused a most unpleasant (and dangerous for certain individuals) illness that does indeed knock most people off kilter for at least a week.

          11 Replies
          1. re: janniecooks

            Norovirus isn't swine flu and norovirus is killed at temps above 140.

            1. re: c oliver

              Of course, thanks for pointing that out. I never said they are the same. Whatever the nature of the illness, my point is valid. It is never acceptable to serve food to other people that has been prepped by a person with possibly unwashed bare hands, who later got quite ill. If unwilling to toss it, eat it yourself but do not serve to others. Were I to find myself in the same situation, I would not even eat the food I had prepared.

              1. re: janniecooks

                I've eaten meat that prior to my buying it had flies on it so obviously I have a different perspective. There are quite a few things that I wouldn't eat raw but will eat cooked. So things like this are valid to you and unacceptable to you but my mileage obviously varies.

                1. re: c oliver

                  Heh. Yep, I've so been there. In some places, you don't have a choice.

                  I've bought beef and chicken that's been on the ground after it was cut up and it's covered in dirt, pebbles, and probably fecal matter. But then, my eggs in Sri Lanka pretty much always came with fecal matter on the shells.

                  So yeah. Different perspective indeed. :)

                2. re: janniecooks

                  Your concern is valid if we are talking about food served immediately after bare hands have been on it, but NOT food that is then cooked, with subsequent handling done only with utensils.

                  1. re: greygarious

                    I became ill from eating food prepared by someone who was ill, despite meeting your "requirements"; in fact the illness was passed on to 16 of 19 people who were present at the same event. The food was prepared by the person with the illness, then cooked - fully cooked. So your "requirements" were met. Yet 16 people were made ill by the sick person's food. Two were hospitalized. One lost a dangerous amount of weight. I was flat out for two weeks and functional but still not right for two more weeks. So I disagree with you and c oliver. In my opinion it is not a matter of opinion, but you disagree. Feel free to risk your health, I say no thank you.

                    1. re: janniecooks

                      Sounds to me that the people got the illness passed on by the person who was sick (one can be contagious even if not symptomatic) rather than by the food that was cooked.

                      1. re: c oliver

                        No, the person who was sick did not attend the party - get this, due to her illness. But she sent her food along anyway, knowing she was seriously ill (and probably not recognizing that her poor hygiene would cause others to suffer). The others at the party did not know about the situation until they (mostly) all got sick. Like I said in my first reply, you do not want to be known as that person who made other people sick.

                        1. re: janniecooks

                          Okay, thanks for clarifying. So now I see she was sick and handling the food after cooking it. OP's situation is completely different.

                          1. re: janniecooks

                            Yuck, that is awful. I can't imagine. I've tossed foods I'd prepared that were meant for others if I so much as feel a sniffle coming on.

                            I know most people aren't as conservative with germs as I am, but like you say, I do NOT want a reputation as "that person" who got others sick. Especially when you cook or bake for a living, bad word of mouth spreads fast.

                            1. re: nothingswrong

                              Thanks for the sympathetic reply. (edited to remove objectionable content.)

              2. Think of it this way. Pork butt is cheap. Cheaper probably than the co-pay you'll have to pay if you, or anyone else in your family, gets sick. When in doubt, toss it out.

                1 Reply
                1. re: ePressureCooker

                  Definitely. If OP is in doubt, that's always the right way to go. For OP.

                2. As has been said already, cooking will kill whatever pathogens may still exist in the pork. The risk would be that if you were still ill and carrying the virus you might recontaminate it after cooking.

                  1. Not to get involved in the ongoing hot debate, but just to point out, as one who coincidentally had roommates in college who studied immunology, or one who was studying to become a pharmacist, I've been told repeatedly that you are in fact at your most contagious when you have contracted a "bug" but have yet to exhibit any outward manifestations of your illness.

                    1. It would probably be fine if you cooked it well, but if I were you I would toss it. The price you paid for it is probably low compared to the worry you will experience eating it and serving it to others. Toss it and forget it.

                      10 Replies
                        1. re: c oliver

                          If touching a piece of pork leads to massive cramps and food poisoning, then I wouldn't even want to take it out of the freezer without multiple layers of gloves - much less prep it again or eat it.

                          Even if you're not sure that's the culprit, we're talking about $10-15 of meat vs. someone's health.

                          1. re: calumin

                            Freezing influenza virus kills it.

                            1. re: c oliver

                              I have a package of Foster Farms chicken that was in the batch with the salmonella outbreak, sitting in my freezer.

                              I'm not going to cook that either. You may be right that it is safe if properly cooked, but the cost of throwing it out is low and the cost of not killing bacteria that others have strongly indicated is in the meat at high levels, is much higher. For me, the same reasoning applies here.

                              1. re: calumin

                                I'm not saying that anyone should eat anything they're not comfortable with. I drink tap water all over the world which skeeves plenty of people out. But please allow me to point out that influenza is a virus and salmonella is a bacteria. Influenza virus is be killed by freezing but salmonella bacteria isn't killed by freezing. So they can hardly be more different, IMO.

                                Just gotta ask :) Why is that chicken still in the freezer?!?!?

                                  1. re: c oliver

                                    Just laziness -- I figure it won't do much harm in the freezer but I need to throw it out at some point.

                                    Are you sure influenza virus is killed by freezing? I have read the opposite.

                                    1. re: calumin

                                      Throw the chicken out before you forget that it's supposed to be in quarantine! As for the pork, my personal choice would be to err on the safe side at all times and toss it out too... there's no way to be SURE exactly what kind of nasty they succumbed to, and it could possibly have been something that would survive on the pork to make you sick again... but I'm sure I've eaten all kinds of unsanitary things in my life and I haven't died yet - it's just the thought of it that squicks me out.

                                    2. re: c oliver

                                      "I'm not saying that anyone should eat anything they're not comfortable with."

                                      Then OP can prepare the pork and serve it to guests, but should let them know the issue beforehand. Let the guests decide for themselves.

                                      1. re: nothingswrong

                                        "I hope you enjoy my sneeze-dried pork."
                                        That'll bring 'em back for seconds....!

                          2. Go back to the doctor who treated you during your illness & ask her/him what to do,

                            1. Absolutely. You're looking at a non-issue here, assuming you cook it

                              1. Lunch to later that night does not seem like a long enough time to incubate the pathogen you described.

                                My father recently ate some macaroni salad he bought at the store. He ate it around 6pm and then started having the 'GI symptoms' at 9:30pm. I am quite certain it was not the macaroni salad. I could not convince him however.

                                By the way, I would worry about anyone getting ill from eating the pulled pork if you cook it properly.

                                15 Replies
                                1. re: John E.

                                  Did you mean to write you "would NOT" worry?

                                  And this is swine flu that's being referred to. It's not commonly associated with diarrhea although that can occur. And it appears that the incubation period is from a day to a week. I also wonder how the diagnosis of swine flu was made.

                                  1. re: c oliver

                                    Yes, of course that's what I meant.

                                    I have not had the GI thing for several years. The two worst times were after a family wedding and after Thanksgiving at my grandmother's house many years ago. There were two others who were ill after the wedding, but I tend to think that both of these instances were not because a food born illness.

                                    Oftentimes, people assume they got sick because of food, when in fact it was from touching a common object that an infected person had previously touched.

                                    Isn't Swine Flu a respiratory illness?

                                    1. re: John E.

                                      Mostly a respiratory illness, yes. Sometime diarrhea but far less common. As I understand it, to truly diagnose it, a swab has to be taken from the nose or throat. I agree with you that most cases that are thought to be food-borne are, in fact, not.

                                      1. re: John E.

                                        John E.

                                        It is the opposite--the government studies say that MOST of the time when a person has a GI tract illness, it IS from something they ate. GI viruses like the stomach flu are actually not that common and only come in bursts when they are the "flu of the season."

                                        The reason we may not know whether we have a food illness or a virus we caught is because most people don't require hospitalization when sick, and even if they do, the ER doesn't often take cultures or samples to test for what type of illness the person has.

                                        The food that causes the vast majority of foodborne illness is fresh produce: unwashed or improperly handled fruits and vegetables. This is the biggest worry when you're eating out, as you have no idea where your salad came from or if it was even rinsed off before being served to you. The other issue is cross-contamination of fresh produce in restaurant or home kitchens (i.e. sharing cutting boards with raw meats).

                                        Lastly, there are quite a few different types of food poisoning. Some of them are "delayed release," i.e. the sufferer won't experience symptoms until many hours later, or even up to a few days. But some types of food poisoning produce almost immediate symptoms, in as little as an hour.

                                        My mother is a physician and has had this happen twice. Both times required hospitalization, and both times she tested positive for salmonella after eating chicken at restaurants. She became violently ill on the way home in both instances (less than an hour after eating). The second time, she took a piece of the chicken with her for testing at her hospital and it did in fact come up positive for salmonella. Nobody else who ate their own chicken those nights got sick at all.

                                        There was also an incident where she was at a doctor dinner out at a fancy restaurant. One of the other doctors started feeling sick as dessert was arriving. She threw up in the bathroom for half an hour before she felt okay enough to come out and ask for a ride to the ER for fluids and nausea meds. The other doctors were all okay, but they snagged the sick woman's leftovers for testing at the lab as well. It came up positive. This woman was puking her guts out within 30 minutes of eating the contaminated food.

                                        1. re: nothingswrong

                                          Having once had a mild case of salmonella (in my case I ate, wasn't feeling quite right overnight, but didn't become really ill until unfortunately after I got on the BART train and was in the train tunnel underwater between Oakland and San Francisco. (It wasn't pretty, totally humiliating.) I then became so deathly ill that when I arrived at the office I had to lay down all day in between bathroom runs before I could summon the energy to go back home...

                                          And even though I had a very mild case, it was far and away the worst illness I've ever experienced, and I wouldn't recommend risking it to anyone...

                                          1. re: nothingswrong

                                            I would like to see your links. I did not say most times the GI illness was not caused by food, I said often times it is not caused by food. In the two instances that I mentioned, the wedding incident caused illness in three people out of a couple hundred; the Thanksgiving episode I was the only one to become ill out of about 40. I would say that neither was caused by food born illness.

                                            1. re: John E.

                                              I didn't mean to imply that in YOUR cases, food was the culprit. I'm just saying statistically and rhetorically, food is most often the culprit.

                                              There are thousands of cases and studies for you to browse if you feel inclined to do so. I do not have specific studies on hand that I'm recalling information from, but you can peruse this if you'd like: http://www.cdc.gov/foodborneburden/tr...

                                              I am someone who contracted salmonella in my early 20s after eating some chicken from a restaurant. I did not get sick until the next day. The salmonella entered my body and damaged my vagus nerve in an irreversible manner. I've spent the last decade in and out of hospitals, fed through a feeding tube, intravenously, etc. due to one chicken dinner and some bad luck.

                                              Through the years I've spent countless hours reading up on the topic. I apologize if I don't have all my sources at hand.

                                              However, I do agree that sometimes we just get sick and it could be for any number of reasons. I am just particularly aware of food safety practices due to my condition, and foodborne illness certainly is much more common than we'd like to think. Most doctors will tell you that you probably get exposed to foodborne pathogens multiple times per year, but you either are asymptomatic or experience such mild symptoms (such as a little stomach upset or very mild diarrhea) that you don't think twice about it.

                                              1. re: nothingswrong

                                                I'm still not certain that the run of the mill, mild vomiting and diarhhea episodes are mostly caused by food born illnes.

                                                I am sorry that you suffered from a dangerous food born illness that has left repercussions. I know of one case in Minnesota (where I am from) where ecoli left devastating results to a young lady from undercooked ground beef. (I no longer ever buy ground been in the 'chubs' that come from ground beef factories.)


                                                1. re: John E.

                                                  Wow, that is a terrible story. It hits close to home, and I really feel for her not being able to walk.

                                                  I can't stomach ground beef anymore, but I remember my mother switching to freshly ground sirloin many years ago after reading about what grocery store ground beef is made of. She buys whole sirloin steaks and has the butcher grind them in front of her. I do the same when I need ground meat to cook for others.

                                                  Not to get too off-topic, but I guess for those of us who have had life-altering repercussions from food poisoning, food handling safety is of the utmost importance. I cringed when I read the topic of this thread, and the description of the pork and OP's illness. While I can understand peoples' desire to not be so overly cautious with germs (or frugality? I don't know the motivation), I also would give anything to have my life back. And that includes wishing the meat I had eaten all those years ago was handled properly before it was served to me.

                                                  Essentially, the condition I developed from salmonella is like having food poisoning every minute of every day for the rest of your life. That is how it is described by doctors. It is also said to produce a lower quality of life--on average--than going through cancer treatments.

                                                  All from a piece of chicken! I am not angry, but rather sad. A person shouldn't have to risk their quality of life to have a nourishing meal. The number of mass outbreaks of contaminated food in the US is frightening.

                                                  Anyway, you are right that maybe many of the GI upset instances people experience may not come from food. I suppose there is no real way of knowing for sure.

                                                  1. re: nothingswrong

                                                    May I ask are you able to ingest food or are you sustained via TPN or tube feedings?

                                                    1. re: MamasCooking

                                                      I just finished 7 months of TPN. Now I'm only on IV hydration/vitamins at home. I have a picc line. I've been sick for 9 years but it keeps getting worse. Even with the IV, I suffer from severe malabsorption and have developed numerous neurological, cardiac, lower GI, and renal issues in recent years. It's like the gift that keeps on giving!

                                                      I do eat by mouth to keep my gut working. Like I said, what I have is akin to having food poisoning day in and day out for the rest of your life. So eating is exhausting. My body wants to expel anything that goes into my stomach. I have learned to keep it down as best I can, but we are advised not to eat more than a few bites of food at a time, and space it out every 4-5 hours. Between those 4-5 hours, I have to sit still and try and breathe through the involuntary heaving and gagging.

                                                      I also have to take handfuls of pills throughout the day to try and force my stomach to contract and digest, as well to fend off nausea.

                                                      That being said, I bake every day and I cook when the urge strikes. Sometimes I can only take a bite, but I will spend all day making something because I get to savor that one bite and be around the food during the process. My taste buds have become very very sensitive and "appreciative."

                                                      About once a year in the summer I will treat myself to a bite of fresh, ripe, juicy fruit (usually pineapple or strawberries). I have to spit it out after I chew it--it would make me sick enough to land me in the hospital--but it makes me cry. Every single time, it's like the most beautiful thing I've ever experienced.

                                                      Occasionally I'll get to thinking, and it's hard to wrap my head around what happened, but there you have it.

                                                      I'm still over here hoping OP threw that damn pork away...

                                                      Anyway that's much more information than you asked for :)

                                                      1. re: nothingswrong

                                                        That just sucks in so many way. :(

                                                        I hope you can regain your health.

                                                        1. re: nothingswrong

                                                          I have never heard of a situation such as yours. I hope the infectious disease doctors can figure out something that will help you to recover. You certainly have a positive attitude. Good luck to you and your family.

                                                      2. re: nothingswrong

                                                        So, so sorry that that happened to you.

                                        2. OP, what did you eventually do? Any follow-up to report?

                                          1. Even among those who have relatively minor symptoms and soon feel better, there may be a whole spectrum of serious longterm health issues which do not manifest until much later and are only beginning to be identified as linked to food poisoning. These can include not just the chronic digestive problems you might expect to be related, but also reactive arthritis and high blood pressure, along with significantly elevated risk of diabetes, heart disease and kidney failure. It will be very difficult to determine how many cases of these conditions may be related to previous bouts of food poisoning, especially since until recently nobody suspected the possibility of any connection. Countless millions of us have had minor cases of food poisoning at some point in our lives.

                                            A Scientific American article on the subject from 2012:


                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: eclecticsynergy

                                              Interesting article, thank you for sharing.

                                              1. re: nothingswrong

                                                Let me add my voice to the sympathetic chorus here. My heart goes out to you, nw, and I wish you well.

                                            2. A recurring lament on Chowhound is people rallying against wasting food. To some extent I agree but I would nix the *dirty* pork and be done with it. Why risk exposing people to possible food borne illness? I suggest you read the posts written by poster *nothingswrong* regarding what happened to her secondary to consuming contaminated chicken:( All it takes is a tiny exposure to certain pathogens for severe damage to ensue. Do you have a clean bill of health now after all of that:) I hope so!

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: MamasCooking

                                                I repeat my previous advice: Go to the physician who treated your illness and ask her/his advice.
                                                This is too serious an issue to rely on opinions gleaned from the Internet.

                                              2. no I wouldn't risk it.

                                                1. Bet you got food poisoning from the restaurant...as did the cook. Makes sense, right? You got sick a few hours after you ate, yes?...And the pork butt is fine, as u believe it is. U were not hasty in your prep, like u said. U washed your hands, prepped it, & washed your hands. That did not lead you to become deathly ill nor transmit anything from u to the meat or vice versa. To me, that all makes sense. Would it make sense to biopsy a piece of the meat & take it to a pathologist? My guess it would just be a matter of looking at it under a microscope - something a microbiology student could do. Or your local vet! Idk, just for the sake of getting to the bottom of this & not reading posts on it for a year! Good luck...and sorry to hear of your suffering.