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A Teen Had His Fingers and Legs Amputated After Making This Food Safety Mistake

Leftovers can become dangerous if not stored properly.

Leftovers are a common food group in households across the country, but a college student in Massachusetts recently became severely ill after eating some leftover takeout. After being admitted to the hospital hours later, he faced multiple organ failures and also had both of his legs and all his fingers amputated.

The 19-year-old ate leftover rice, chicken, and lo mein from a restaurant, but soon felt stomach pains, was vomiting, had chills, chest pains, shortness of breath, a headache, blurry vision, neck stiffness, and saw his skin turn purple with a rash, according to The New England Journal of Medicine. Doctors soon determined it was a rare form of septic shock called Purpura fulminan.

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Leftover rice and pasta that have not been stored properly can develop Bacillus cereus. This bacteria can produce a toxin if it is heated and then left out too long. USA Today says that a teenager in 2008 died in his sleep after eating leftover pasta that wasn't refrigerated overnight.

Experts say leaving food out for around two hours can increase the chances of it growing bacteria. "Foodborne illness bacteria grow rapidly between the temperatures of 40° F and 140° F, and just two hours at room temperature is enough time for food poisoning bacteria to reach dangerous levels," Meredith Carothers, a technical information specialist at the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) previously told Eat This, Not That!

In the end, the Massachusetts student had to get both of his legs amputated below the knee, along with 10 fingers. He also needed a pacemaker for nearly two weeks because of cardiac dysfunction.

In order to safely consume leftovers, it's best to store them in the fridge for as long as it does not smell or display signs of spoilage—or about three to four days. They should also always be cooked thoroughly, even if they have been chilled. Should foodborne illness reach your house, Follow These Two Steps to Sanitize Your Kitchen, Expert Says.

Amanda McDonald
Amanda has a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University and a bachelor's degree in digital journalism from Loyola University Chicago. Read more about Amanda
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