Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

If you got sick at a restaurant...


bilrus
 Share

Recommended Posts

I was at a recent dinner at a very nice restaurant that I have been to a number of times with a dozen people and at least five of us suffered various forms and levels of intestinal distress in the next few hours after.

The culprit is likely to have been one of three things that everyone at the table shared.

My question is - should I let the chef (who I have gotten to know through my visits there) know what happened?

I don't want to come off as being accusatory - I understand that these things happen sometimes. The food was, for the most part, very good. My interest is more in letting them know about it so any other problems could be avoided.

Bill Russell

Link to comment
Share on other sites

While tommy's right that it can't hurt to let them know, your position should be tempered by the fact that food-borne illnesses usually take longer than a "few hours" to develop. Unless whatever made you sick was chemically based, rather than biological -- in other words, you were literally poisoned -- it's entirely possible that one of your party was actually the culprit, rather than the restaurant.

Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

food-borne illnesses usually take longer than a "few hours" to develop. Unless whatever made you sick was chemically based, rather than biological -- in other words, you were literally poisoned -- it's entirely possible that one of your party was actually the culprit, rather than the restaurant.

We all got sick about 7 hours after the meal started.

I know there are other factors involved and I am not looking to "get anything" out of it. I guess I was curious if a chef and or restaurant finds this helpful or not.

Bill Russell

Link to comment
Share on other sites

OK, we've got a difference of opinion on what "a few" means! Seven hours is enough time to get the intestines in an uproar. I didn't think you were after compensation; my fear was that you wouldn't get a fair hearing.

You should definitely tell him, and he should thank you. (And apologize profusely.)

Edited by Dave the Cook (log)

Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

food-borne illnesses usually take longer than a "few hours" to develop. Unless whatever made you sick was chemically based, rather than biological -- in other words, you were literally poisoned -- it's entirely possible that one of your party was actually the culprit, rather than the restaurant.

We all got sick about 7 hours after the meal started.

I know there are other factors involved and I am not looking to "get anything" out of it. I guess I was curious if a chef and or restaurant finds this helpful or not.

Any restaurant that I've ever worked for WELCOMED knowing about such things so if there are multiple complaints regarding the same dish from customers in different parties thay could narrow down the possible source. Customers will often call and complain in the hopes of scamming a free meal or getting a gift certificate out of it, but my question is why would you EVER go back to somewhere that made you ill (unless you were lying :hmmm:) ??? eck09.gif

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

Link to comment
Share on other sites

YES! Let the chef know, with the particulars of when you were there and what items were eaten by all who got sick. Since there were several of you, it is likely (although not certain without testing) that it was, in fact, something you all ate. The more information you can give the restaurant, the more chance they'll have of finding exactly what happened in the kitchen and preventing it from happening again. Your acquaintance with the chef and numerous previous visits add credence to your report; clearly, you are not some crackpot just trying to rip them off (or some misguided college professor doing unauthorized "research.") In fact, NOT telling the restaurant allows the problem to continue; more people could then be made ill.

Food borne illnesses can also be caused by chemicals -- a dishwashing product, cleaner, bleach, etc. -- that inadvertently make their way into the food. These products can cause a reaction in less time than infection or intoxication from microbes. Such materials can get into food because someone decided to re-use a chemical container not meant for holding food, or any number of other accidents and mistakes. If it really is a good place, they'll investigate, clear up the problem, and not take inappropriate punitive action against the person or persons who made the error. This becomes a training opportunity, which most places can use all the time.

Edited to add: Seven hours was about the right timing for me -- twice from seafood at a clambake, once from steak tartare -- for infection or intoxication from microbes.

Edited by Suzanne F (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Food borne illnesses can also be caused by chemicals -- a dishwashing product, cleaner, bleach, etc. -- that inadvertently make their way into the food. These products can cause a reaction in less time than infection or intoxication from microbes. Such materials can get into food because someone decided to re-use a chemical container not meant for holding food, or any number of other accidents and mistakes.

Thanks, Suzanne -- this is what I was referring to when I mentioned "posioning" above. The worst food-related incident I have experienced was traced back to an iced tea container that hadn't been thoroughly rinsed -- emptied the entire GI tract within 30 minutes of ingestion.

Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My question is - should I let the chef (who I have gotten to know through my visits there) know what happened?

I don't want to come off as being accusatory - I understand that these things happen sometimes. The food was, for the most part, very good. My interest is more in letting them know about it so any other problems could be avoided.

My wife & I went to dinner to celebrate her 30th birthday at a very high-end restaurant. We both had a multi-course dinner and had a very nice evening.

She got sick a few hours later. The next monday I emailed the chef to let him know. Like you, bilrus, I didn't want to sound accusatory either & just wanted to let him know that something may have been off or at least rule his food out as the cause. So I was very polite & as non-accusatory as I could be. The next day I received a phone call from the manager who apologized and offered the explanation that it was perhaps the large quantities of very rich & protein-heavy foods that my wife's system could not process that was the culprit. He assured me that that was no way that their could have been anything 'bad' about any of the food being served that night and that the chef de cuisine's sister has a similar experience when she dines at the restaurant.

I did appreciate the timely reply from the restaurant as I guess that could have just as easily blown me off.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

For food infections, when I was in a position to investigate some of those, we had some very severe cases that were 2 to 3 hours to onset. These were borne out via matching cultures. With high initial bactrial load, it can happen but is not typical. The creepiest case I worked on was a normally healthy kid, 10 or 12, that was in the habit of making milk shakes with eggs. They lived on a farm. He started showing symptoms in less than an hour and 12 hours later he was dead from massive infection, blood infection and organ failure. But that is a real extreme. And probably involved some particularly agressive strains of salmonella. (That is what it was.)

Staph poisoning is a toxic reaction to the toxin and not an infection. It can happen really fast, less than an hour, if the toxin is in a high enough dosage. Staph toxin is not destroyed by heat so there are sometimes erroneous assumptions that it couldn't have been this or that because it was served hot.

I would discuss it with the chef but I would go to him armed with all the information you have (who ate what, commonalities, etc.) so that he can maybe figure out where the safeguards broke down and fix it.

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

Link to comment
Share on other sites

my question is why would you EVER go back to somewhere that made you ill (unless you were lying :hmmm:) ??? eck09.gif

Actually - I'm sure I will go back. We have had several very good meals there in the past and I figure this would be a one time issue.

In fact the meal in question was great - aside from this slight problem and some slightly undercooked risotto (not the culprit - not everyone ordered the risotto). :unsure:

Thanks to everyone for the advice - I did just send the chef an e-mail detailing the issues.

Bill Russell

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Since we are on the subject of food borne illness...

Let's say you ate something, like raw oysters, that could potentially make you sick? How long can it take for you to get sick? I know that some people get sick in less than 12 hours, but can it take longer? A day, a week, a month?

True Heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic.

It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost,

but the urge to serve others at whatever cost. -Arthur Ashe

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You should contact the Chef; there are many humans working in restaurants, and many ways to accidentally contaminate food. You should also contact the healthe dept ( even more so when you feel that the restaurant is not taking action).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Let's say you ate something, like raw oysters, that could potentially make you sick? How long can it take for you to get sick? I know that some people get sick in less than 12 hours, but can it take longer? A day, a week, a month?

i've had some bad margaritas that have gotten me ill all through the next day. they tasted fine the night before. :unsure:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

i've had some bad margaritas that have gotten me ill all through the next day. they tasted fine the night before. :unsure:

That was the initial reaction of two people (drinks - not food) - until they got the other reports.

Bill Russell

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Since we are on the subject of food borne illness...

Let's say you ate something, like raw oysters, that could potentially make you sick? How long can it take for you to get sick?  I know that some people get sick in less than 12 hours, but can it take longer?  A day, a week, a month?

From the CDC Bacterial and Mycotic Disease page:

What happens in the body after the microbes that produce illness are swallowed?

After they are swallowed, there is a delay, called the incubation period, before the symptoms of illness begin.  This delay may range from hours to days, depending on the organism, and on how many of them were swallowed. 

I'm not an expert by any means, but I can't think of a common food-borne illness with an incubation period that stretches into months. As an example, the incubation period for Hepatitis A is two to six weeks.

Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I did hear back from the chef - he was very apologetic, said he looked at the preparation of all the dishes to avoid any problems and wanted contact info for everyone affected so he could personally apologize.

The exact right response - IMO.

Bill Russell

Link to comment
Share on other sites

When we were in our early 20's (20 years ago...) my sister and I once ordered Bloody Mary's before dinner at a nice restaurant in Boston. The rest of the party ended up ordering the same entrees as we did. We both became ill, and no one else did, leading us to suspect the coctails and not the food. Sour/off bloody mix? Unwashed celery? We didn't know. We also didn't report it, since our companions were unscathed. Now, I would report it in an instant. They need to know this. And reporting it and keeping a copy of the email is important as well.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

And here's another wrinkle...

In some jurisdictions, if you seek medical attention due to food borne illness, hospitals and doctors are required to report the illness. An immediate unscheduled visit by health and/or restaurant inspectors, depending on the particular bug or situation, is then carried out.

Between superbugs, resistant bacteria, and other really unpleasant critters, prompt diagnosis and immediate clinical treatment will go a long way to keeping things in check. As fifi stated, you can go from queasy to body bag pretty darn quick. Admittedly, this is an extreme, but things can get out of hand.

Always get medical attention quickly, especially if you live alone. As the victim of a bad raw oyster (still can't eat 'em) I can tell you, that had there not been anyone else there, I would not have been able to call for help myself. I would not have died, but the house could have burned down around me, and there wouldn't be a thing I could do about it. I was literally helpless. 6'1", 250 lbs, and too weak to move myself.

Bottom line, if one or more of you get even a little sick within 24 hours of eating at a restaurant, chef and/or management need to know about it.

Screw it. It's a Butterball.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

When I had shigellosis, on the way home from the ER, I stopped at the drugstore to fill my antibiotic prescription just before the drugstore closed. If I had missed it, I wouldn't've been able to drag myself out of the house the next day, as I was at that point too sick to go out, even with the medication.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have to support Katherine and FFR. I got salmonella at a fencing tournament once. If I wouldn't have had a girlfriend who was used to taking me to the ER and nursing me back to health (I did the same for her on several occasions) I would not have made it. That first 4 days was not fun to say the least.

Afterward it still took 3 months to get my GI tract back in shape.

I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My dad and my brother got very sick after eating at a local resturant. They are fairly sure it was due to shellfish, because they were the only members of their party to have that dish. When my mother let the restaurant know, they were rude and defensive, rather than apologetic.

It was very disappointing, because it is one of the nicest restaurants in our area. Now we cannot eat there, out of principle. The food poisoning, we could have accepted. Occasionally you can get a bad oyster. But the condesension and disdain. Well, that was unforgivable.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Naomi, you should post the name of the restaurant in the appropriate board if you haven't already done so. That way, some people could be spared the experience your brother and dad had. (Though if and when you do post the name of the restaurant, make sure to follow the practice of admitting up-front that you don't have proof their food poisoned you, since that could be actionable as "defamation.")

Michael aka "Pan"

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...