I recently saw a video of a person who died from eating 5 day old unrefrigerated pasta. The cause was cereulide toxin from Bacillus cereus bacteria in the food. I recently left pasta unrefrigerated in a plastic container for 3 days accidentally, and it smelled kind of like vinegar when I opened it to put in the dishwasher. I assumed that washing the plastic container in the dishwasher on a sanitize cycle would be fine to remove any potential cereulide toxins, but then started researching cereulide (because I'm paranoid) and came across some scientific data mentioning that

"Cereulide is moreover hydrophobic, so it can attach to contact materials. This means that cereulide cannot be easily eliminated in industrial installations. Cereulide can thus not be eliminated with usual cleaning protocols and when the heat sterilization of 15 minutes at 121◦C is not strict enough (Rajkovic et al., 2008)."

So, is my plastic container permanently toxic now or am I just being paranoid? Can you get food poisoning from even a washed plastic container because of this toxin?

  • 1
    It seems like you've already done ome reasearch on this. I've ; been unable to determine if a simple soak in bleach will remove the cereulide; you might do a search for that. – FuzzyChef May 14 at 4:06

Chubbyemu keeps me up at a night too.

But remember, when you're looking up case studies and very rare stories and situations, they will always be as crazy as possible. If people do get sick from clean containers, they would have used that as the basis for the story, not eating 5 day old pasta. Remember, the point of both internet clickbait stories and chubbyemu stories is to take rare situations from billions of people, and use it to contrast how serious death is vs how "benign" his mistake was, which would be more pronounced if they could find this theoretical clean plastic container illness story. But if 5 day old pasta and chugging ridiculous amounts of soy sauce is the best he could do, then you're fine as you don't do anything equally as ridiculous, and even if you do a rediculous thing, you're still probably fine. As he mentioned at the end of the video, eating 5 day old pasta will not usually end like this in the vast vast majority of cases, and he only mentioned a handful of case studies afterwards. And even after noting the sickness, it was highly propagated by other ridiculous things like the stomach pills (It should be common knowledge that for any type of poisoning, your goal is vomiting as much as possible. It's on the back of every bleach or ammonia container). I mean, don't ever eat 5 day old pasta, but the container will certainly be fine.

To answer the question:

If the pasta was a dry pasta you can end right there because the toxin will only be inside the pasta anyway, not in any sauce that would spread over the container.

If it's a wet pasta, look here: https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/12197882&ved=2ahUKEwjvu-21xJriAhXCmuAKHWuaCdUQFjABegQIBxAK&usg=AOvVaw36q0A0hxu_OK8sVUn_vFtl

So, it's lipophilic, ie, oil soluble. Soap will do just fine. Or if you're very scared just fill the container with oil and mix to dilute it, and then drain it out and wash with soap.

Similarly: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC127581/

The above discussing that B. Cereus is consumed in high quantities regularly without illness. Strains that are dangerous are exceedingly rare, we only know about them because of the incredible information exchange of the modern world in combination with the absurdly high 7 billion population.

Googling: "The CDC estimates that there are over 63,000 cases of Bacillus cereus illness each year in this country, and that 100% of the cases are caused by eating contaminated food."

Note the important deduction, 0% caused by eating washed containers.

At 6 million car accidents per year in the US, commiting to a strict no-car lifestyle will be hundreds of times more important to your safety than worrying about plastic containers.

Also, there are on average 0 deaths per year. See https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/ahfss/Animal_Health/PHR250/2007/25007BcerMH__2_.pdf&ved=2ahUKEwiAz-DuwZriAhUQVN8KHesJAcgQFjAGegQICBAB&usg=AOvVaw0FiJ9aLhm4a1t4H2isHES3

So, even if you get ill, you'll be fine within 3 days. 1 in 60000 odds at worst, not including the many unreported contracts of the illness that were too mild to be seen. Since googling describes getting sick as "mild and transient", it's probably only serious enough to be reported 1 in 10 times, so after you hit the very rare situation of getting ill, you're STILL 1 in 1 million to die from it (1 in 1 million is a bit handwavy as seen, but 1 in 100,000 is very certain as odds of death after getting sick).

At the miniscule but still but still much worse than B Cereus, total of 50 lightening strike fatalities per year in the US, you have more pressing fears, as being outside is millions of times more potent of a killer than the idea of eating out of washed containers, for which I cannot find any case studies for. Despite how case studies in the US can utilize situations that occur in 1 in 300 million people, where your average astrophysist can go on for days about how big that number is, they still involve gross negligence such as eating an entire bowl of pasta sitting at room temperature for 3 days that then smelt poorly.

  • Thank you for the very detailed response! I usually mix my pasta with a lot of oil so I'm assuming the toxin, if present, would then probably be dissolved in that oil and washed away easily with soap. I also worry that cases like these, where someone might hypothetically get sick from a "clean" container, may account for "unexplainable" illnesses people sometimes have. Who would think of the container and report that? So things like this might be completely undocumented. Even if there was any toxin left, it's probably too small to do anything anyway. I need to stop watching chubbyemu videos. – worriedBoy May 15 at 3:50
  • @worriedBoy Yes, I concur with your worry. The problem is, it's by definition of that concern that you can't find research to discuss it. However, deaths are our biggest fear, and deaths are easier to consider. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2732455 Death by some unexplained potential infection is 22x less likely than death by car accident. And, given that the asian household im currently staying at today regularly leaves rice at 105F for 10 hours a day, I'll tell you that plenty of people do incredibly dangerous things. Unexplained deaths should be higher if it was an issue – Nicholas Pipitone May 22 at 6:15
  • Unfortunately, i cant do any better than the anecdote that i can pick up from the household that i just happen to be in right now. The link i mentioned helps but that 22x can only be turned into a real risk percentage based on how often people do dangerous things. Consider the realization that restaurants get beef tartare from most likely just your closest butcher, without doing much research. We have something that is also supposed to be "dangerous" because we're told to clean everything raw meat touches, but across the street they take the same meat and just minced it before serving it raw. – Nicholas Pipitone May 22 at 6:18
  • All-in-all, you'll be fine, even if you do stupid things, just don't be incredibly stupid. Anything cleaned, is clean. I've read authorities suggesting "go plastic cutting board", and then suggesting "go wooden cutting board", out of safety, when really it just doesnt matter. – Nicholas Pipitone May 22 at 6:34

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