Woman Almost Dies From Bacterial Infection After Eating Watermelon Left in Fridge Overnight
It is not the first time such an incident has occurred.
Don’t want to waste excess rice cooked from dinner? Thinking of saving the plate of cut fruits for later? Off they go into the fridge for the next lunch, dinner, or whenever the occasion calls for it.
Keeping leftover food overnight in the fridge has become second nature in many households. While some, if not many of us remain relatively fine, certain people could experience discomfort, food poisoning or in extreme cases, even death.
For a 50-year-old woman in Wuhan City, it was a severe case of bacterial infection that almost claimed her life.
Consumed Overnight Watermelon after 2 Days
According to a Sin Chew Daily report on 18 June, the woman previously bought a watermelon and consumed half of it. She then placed the remaining half into the fridge for storage overnight.
The next time she took it out for consumption was two days later.
Experienced a Bout of Illness
While no further details were given, on whether the woman stored the watermelon incorrectly, or if the watermelon had been contaminated even before she placed it in the fridge, it led to severe consequences.
The woman first started displaying symptoms such as chills and fever after consuming the overnight watermelon.
According to Sin Chew, her condition worsened the next day. She experienced blurry vision, weakness in both legs, as well as her body trembling all over.
She was rushed to the hospital immediately for emergency treatment.
Facing Life-threatening Situation
After hospitalisation, it was revealed that the woman developed “shock blood pressure”.
It pointed towards a severe bacterial infection where the bacteria count in her body was thousands of times higher than normal.
According to Sin Chew, the bacteria entering the bloodstream from the intestine could potentially cause sepsis and septic shock, placing her in a life-threatening situation.
Fortunately for the woman, her condition stabilised after doctors fought to rescue her.
As to what could have caused the bacterial growth, an Associate professor from the China Agricultural University attributed it to two factors: an unclean fridge or overly high temperature within the fridge.
Similar Incident in 2018
This is not the first time where such an incident have taken place.
In 2018, a man was diagnosed with necrotising enterocolitis (NEC), a medical condition where a portion of the bowel rots and dies, after eating overnight watermelon.
Doctors also attributed the cause to a bacterial infection. The 70-year-old also had 70cm of his small intestines removed.
It is noted that necrotising enterocolitis is a severe condition that often affects babies, particularly those born prematurely. It leads us to think twice about our own food handling practices to protect loved ones at home.
Improper Food Handling has Consequences
While both were fortunate to have escaped from the clutches of death, the lesson here remains: improper food handling can lead to consequences.
It is even more worrisome for certain groups of people more susceptible to developing foodborne illnesses. They include:
- Infants and young children
- Pregnant women and their fetuses
- Older adults
- People with weak immune systems
It leads us to think about how the contamination could have occurred and if it could have been prevented. Whether it is watermelon or other food items, consider:
- Was it stored near raw meat?
- Was it sealed and stored correctly?
- Had it been left in the open for too long before storage in the fridge?
- How was its condition before purchase?
- Was it placed on a dirty surface?
- Was the food left in the fridge for far too long?
And above all else, it is important to note that food safety starts from the moment you choose to make a purchase.
Here are some tips to keep in mind to keep the entire family safe.
Tips for Storing Watermelon Safely
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends storing watermelons at a temperature of around 4ºC (40 degrees Fahrenheit) and below.
If watermelon pieces sit out at room temperature for longer than two hours, be sure to discard them.
Here are other safety considerations:
- When buying pre-cut or packaged watermelon, choose only those refrigerated or surrounded by ice
- For whole watermelons
- Run cold water over watermelon. Wipe the outside to remove any dirt or residue and pat with a clean, dry towel or paper towels
- Store in the fridge for no more than one week
- Store at room temperature for one to two weeks
- For cut watermelons
- If removing seeds, use the tip of a knife instead of hands
- Wrap tightly in plastic, or in an airtight container and refrigerate
- To be eaten within three to five days (the sooner you eat it, the better!)
Other Tips to Keep Your Food Safe at Home
- Do not dismiss basic hygiene practices such as washing your hands properly before handling any kind of food.
- Store fresh fruits (except bananas) and vegetables in the refrigerator.
- Store fruits and vegetables in separate compartments. When fruits ripen, they can cause green vegetables to turn yellow.
- Keep fresh produce separate from raw meat, poultry, and seafood products.
- Ensure that your fridge is cold enough, typically between 0ºC and 4ºC. This increases shelf life and decreases bacterial growth.
- Protect your food from pathogens. Always READ the label for storage instructions.
- Store cut fruits and vegetables in sealed plastic bags or clean and properly-covered containers in the refrigerator. This helps to prevent cross-contamination.
- Store hardy root vegetables (e.g potatoes, but discard them if they’re green) and fresh fruits that need ripening, at room temperature.
- Always ensure you have clean hands when handling fruits or vegetables for raw consumption (e.g. salads or garnishes). Ensure that anyone else in your home who handles food (e.g. your helper), follows the same rule.
- Use separate chopping boards and utensils when handling other kinds of raw foods such as meat products.
Lead image via iStock. For illustration purposes only.