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Dear Miss Ginsu: Poisoned by Bay Leaves?

Dear Miss Ginsu,

I have a culinary/biology question. I made black bean soup yesterday — the kind where you blend the beans into a purée.

I took out the bay leaf, blended the beans and finished the soup. Then remembered I actually had two bay leaves in the pot. Today I was in, um, intestinal distress, hot flashes, dizzy, etc. Could the bay leaf be the culprit?

— Bad Belly

Bay Leaves

Dear Belly,

Sorry. Wasn't the bay leaf.

Bay leaves are perfectly edible... they're just not very digestible. It's like eating a piece of tree bark. A little tough on the throat maybe, but it wouldn't be more than roughage in your guts.

Does sound like that's an unhappy tummy, though.

This is probably more than you wanted to know, but there are actually two forms of "food poisoning"

A. Food intoxication
B. Food poisoning

Food intoxication is caused by the toxins that the little bacteria produce. So if a dish is left out for three days, then frozen or cooked and then eaten, the little buggies might all be dead, but the toxins they made when they had their big bacteria party are still there. Intoxication tends to hit faster (2-8 hours after ingestion).

Food poisoning is created by the microbes themselves having their little bacteria party in your guts. That's why actual poisoning takes a bit longer. It's generally not the last thing you ate, since it takes more like 8 to 24 hours to create problems.

So it probably wasn't the bay leaf or even the beans. Since you made them fresh, there was really no opportunity for growth. Hope that helps!

Here's to happier tummies,
Miss Ginsu

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10.21.2008

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