What do Star Trek icon William Shatner, uber-musician Elton John and teen idol Selena Gomez have in common?
If you guessed that all three suffered food poisoning this year … That’s really weird that you know that.
But anyway. The important thing to remember after you’ve read this blog is that food poisoning can strike even in fancy restaurants if food-safety best practices are not followed.
Food pathogens are avoidable, but they cause 48 million illnesses and 3,000 deaths each year— and that’s just in the United States. The ickies that have been sidelining celebs include E. coli, salmonella and listeria. Just last year, listeria was traced to contaminated cantaloupes that caused one of the deadliest food poisoning outbreaks in years, killing 25 and sickening more than a hundred.
Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and fever. They can appear within minutes, or they may be delayed for days (so don’t assume it was the last thing you ate that caused it). Many victims don’t realize their illness is caused by food poisoning, since the symptoms are flu-like.
Shatner, who boldly went from “Star Trek” celebrity to Priceline pitchman, took to the New York stage in 2012 for a one-man show. The show was well received by audience and critics, but it didn’t go off without a hitch. Shatner revealed on “Good Morning America” that on opening night, of all nights, he was hit with a case of food poisoning. It was a night to remember for him—for the wrong reasons.
Sir Elton had a similar misfortune when food poisoning forced him to cancel two shows at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. Naturally, the gossip-rag wags couldn’t pass up zingers about the Rocket Man having a “crappy” weekend. Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road; Hello, Porcelain Throne.
The legendary pianist and singer is no stranger to tummy trouble. In 2009 he was rushed to a hospital with a serious E. coli infection. The next year, foodborne illness got him again, this time just before a performance in Tucson. The illness was bad enough to force him to push back concerts in Seattle and Portland.
More recently, Justin Bieber’s former girlfriend (Gomez) had the scare of her life when she was rushed to the hospital after guesting on “The Tonight Show.” She was suffering from severe headache and nausea, and tests turned up a case of food poisoning, forcing the young singer to cancel a show in Santa Monica Pier.
It all goes to show that all the fame and fortune in the world don’t take the place of being careful and making sure your food is handled properly. But what should you do if you think you’ve gotten food poisoning?
First, preserve the suspect food if at all possible. Wrap it securely, freeze it, write down what it is and write the date. Litigation is probably not at the top of your priority list at this point, but don’t forget that your half-eaten burger could later be evidence.
Seek treatment if you need it, especially if you’re in an at-risk group (pregnant, elderly, etc.). If symptoms persist or are particularly severe (including bloody diarrhea, excessive nausea, vomiting, or high temperature), call your doctor.
Call the local health department if the suspect food was served to a lot of people, if it came from a restaurant or caterer, or if it is a commercial product. Still have all the packaging? Call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) and you could prevent others—who knows? Maybe even someone famous—from falling victim.