Rickter Scale: A date with spontaneous expiration

The Rickter Scale is a weekly column in the Goldstream Gazette

Rick Stiebel/Columnist

Beware of the intestinal time bomb ticking inside your fridge. (WARNING – contains graphic details not suitable for squeamish readers)

In my case, the weapon of mass ejection was a bottle of Caesar salad dressing tucked away on the back of the shelf that had managed to avoid scrutiny for 90 days past its best before date.

The ordeal began with cramps that awoke me in the middle of the night, leaving me feeling like a large roll of prison-grade barbed wire was slowly uncoiling in my abdomen. That was merely the calm before the tsunami, however, because what followed was 36 hours in hell followed by two days in purgatory. The chemical concoction in question temporarily dissolved the threading on my release valve, leaving me unable to accurately discern when the next explosive episode would unfold. I even considered stealing a tire off of the bride’s bike to make a rubber stopper while I chugged down shots of high test Pepto Bismol. I never wandered more than 10 feet away from the bathroom, where I spent long stretches on the throne praying for deliverance.

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Partial payment for my list of past sins unpunished and a perverse sense of timing marked the second day, which coincided with the first of four days at the Sooke News Mirror. I felt like I’d been completely drained inside out and left for dead because the only substance I was passing was blood. It was a huge relief to hear my doctor tell me a week later that although alarming, that’s not uncommon in cases of severe food poisoning. He ordered a follow-up test, the kind you don’t have to study for, which I felt fortunate to ace two weeks later.

A couple of Super Bowls ago, I may have saved some friends from a similar fate when I noticed the plum sauce I was going to serve was more than a year old. That near miss and my bull’s eye is why I decided to share my quest for innards peace as a back-handed attempt at public service. I urge you to check the dates on what lurks inside your refrigerator, cupboards and pantry. Otherwise, I guarantee you will regret not saving guests from a game of gastric Russian roulette.

I’ve become much more diligent about checking the date on every packaged edible at the time of purchase, especially if they’re on sale. I’ve already found several items in different locations where many of us shop that were close to or past expiry. They included a box of cookies, a bottle of vitamin water, smoked sausage and, in a cruel twist of irony, Caesar salad dressing. It only takes a second or two to have a careful look, and it may save you the cost of cleaning your carpets. You have my words on that.

Rick Stiebel is a Sooke resident and semi-retired journalist.


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