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Food Safety Issues/5 year out of date porridge

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Hi, I really hope you can help me out here:

I have recently in the past few weeks gotten back into the habit of eating a healthier diet and exercising more regularly in an attempt to lower my cholesterol without using statins.

Anyway,  one of my changes was starting each day with a bowl of porridge. I have been eating a popular brand featuring a 'Kilted Scotsman' on the front of the box - that provide small sachets with a serving in them, and ive been loving them - they're delicious. However, last week I had run out of these small servings worth of sachets .. and ended up pulling a big 1kg box out of the back of the cereal cupboard and making it up as usual.  It tasted different, but I thought nothing of it at the time and finished a bigger than usual bowl of it. The rest of that afternoon, evening, and night, I felt rather rough in my stomach and guts, and a little nauseous too when I awoke the next morning still had quite a painful gut when I went down for my breakfast, I was about to pour another bowl of the porridge from the 1kg box in the cupboard - when I noticed the best-before date on it read Oct.2009 ... rather embarrasingly and even more worryingly, it had been open in the cupboard for over 5 years!!

I went to my local walk-in clinic later that afternoon as I was still feeling very rough in the whole gut, and was asked to come back if it got any worse. It is now almost a week later, and although it has not got any worse, it has definitely not got any better. My whole abdomen is very uncomfortable every minute of every day, even though I have been flushing with lots of water and a daily glass of prune juice. I have scoured the Internet for 'eating out of date oats/porridge', and although there are instances of other people having done it too, they have all been a few days/weeks/months ... not 5 years.  I am desperate for some help with this, as I want to know what damage I have done to myself as I am in a lot of constant discomfort and have never felt anything like this before in my life.

I hope you can help me - I have been in touch with the manufacturer,  and they say they have never come across this timescale of a problem ever before .. their advice was to go and see my GP .. the GP was looking for answers on google when I walked back into his office having gone out to urinate into a sample bottle, and then told me to come back if it got worse, as I explained earlier.

Can you help me, or offer me any advice or information that will help??

Yours hopefully,
AK

Answer
Wow I feel badly about all you have gone through. What I can tell you is that you did not get classic (that's the best work I could come up with) food poisoning from eating the porridge. Food poisoning results from the ingesting of microorganisms, usually bacteria or viruses. Salmonella, E. Coli (only a few types like the one you get from eating contaminated hamburger - called 0157/H7), Staph, etc. Porridge isn't potentially hazardous food so it won't support the organisms I just mentioned. Contamination by these organisms doesn't cause the taste, smell or texture of the food to change.There are also molds known to cause illness. My best guess...and remember all I can do is take my best guess here....is that the porridge was contaminated with some type of pathogenic mold.I'm saying this because it tasted funny. So I think the porridge was contaminated with mold at a point when the humidity was high enough for there to be enough moisture in the porridge to support mold growth at some point in the 5 year time. As the mold grew it reproduced forming spores. The vegetative mold died off at some point when there wasn't enough moisture left in the porridge to support it. Pathogenic molds can produce toxins. You consumed the toxin and that's why you have GI distress. The good news is that if the progression of symptoms hasn't gotten worse you will likely be okay. Tell you GI doctor your expert friend says he thinks it may be mold. Good luck. Please follow up by letting me know the outcome. Great question that made me put my thinking cap on.  

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Carl LaFrate

Expertise

I can answer food safety questions relative to food processing, retail food and food salvage after a catastrophic event such as a hurricane, flood, ammonia leak or fire. Questions related to HACCP, Regulatory, GFSI, SQF, BRC, liability issues, contamination events, pest infestation, pest control methodology,food safety defense, pathogen prevention such as L. Monocytogenes control in food processing and retail, any subject related to food safety including at home issues.

Experience

30 years experience as a food safety consultant working for the top food processors, food retailers and insurance companies that write liability policies related to food processing, storage and distribution. My firm employees 6 full time food safety auditors. I work for top law firms throughout the USA and am a staff consultant for Douglas Peterson and Associates, one of the top forensic engineering firms in the world. I also work with Risk Solutions International, a global leader in risk management.

Organizations
New York State Association for Food Protection, past president, executive board Central Atlantic States Association of Food and Drug Officials

Publications
Progressive Grocer Magazine Smart Money Magazine Private Label Buyer Magazine Supermarket News Natural Foods Merchandiser Magazine Food Service Director Magazine NYS Association for Food Protection Annual Report NYS Association for Food Protection Newsletter

Education/Credentials
Syracuse University, Microbiology/Biology NYS College of Environmental Sciences, Plant and Environmental Biology Cornell University, Food and Dairy Processing

Awards and Honors
Wm. Hickey Award (2006), NYS Association for Food Protection, for contributions in the field of food safety and sanitation New York State Integrated Pest Management Award (2007), NYS Assoc. for Food Protection, for contributions in the filed of integrated pest management.

Past/Present Clients
Pillsbury, Agri-Mark, Associated Grocers, Beatrice Foods, Cargill, Southern Cold Storage, Quaker, Ben & Jerry’s, Delverde Pasta (Italy), New York Bakery, Cabot Cheese, Hazelwood Farms, General Mills, Price Chopper Supermarkets, P&C Supermarkets, Great American Supermarkets, Tops Markets, Big M Supermarkets, Big Bear Supermarkets, Frito-Lay Distribution Centers, IBP, Excell, Eckerd Drugs, Rite Aid Drug Stores, Fay’s Drugs, Carl’s Drugs, AWI Wholesale Food Distribution, McLane Food Distributors, Golub Food Distribution, many supermarket chains (many include large scale specialty food service operations), Burger King, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Darden Foods (Red Lobster, Olive Garden), LSG Skychefs (Germany, US), Glen Mills Schools, Cornell University, Crider Poultry, Caesar’s Palace, The Oneida Indian Nation, Taylor Meat Packing, UCB Packaging Films

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