Despite the red carpets, the glamour and their seemingly elegant lifestyles, even stars can be struck by foodborne illness.
While they may watch their diets a bit more carefully than others, they’re still at risk, just like the rest of us. According to estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that 1 in every 6 Americans gets sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne illnesses each year.
Celebrities are no exception.
Musician Elton John has suffered multiple times from foodborne illness. On Feb. 17 and 18, 2012, he was hit with what was said to be food poisoning prior to his scheduled performances at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas and was unable to attend.
In 2010, Sir Elton was affected with a case of food poisoning prior to a performance in Tucson and was forced to postpone concerts in Seattle and Portland, OR.
In 2009, he was hospitalized for E. coli infection. “It was something that I have never had before — a serious E. coli infection which I got from something I ate,” said Sir Elton in an interview with UsMagazine.
William Shatner’s recent Broadway opening, for the former Star Trek actor’s one-man show, was marred by a bout of foodborne illness. On Good Morning America, he said of his return to the New York stage, “I’d love to say I absorbed every second of it but I got food poisoning. So the lack of absorption was really good.”
Last June 13, after a performance on the Tonight show, singer Selena Gomez was rushed to a Los Angeles hospital exhibiting symptoms of a “severe headache and nausea.”
Tests reportedly revealed the problem to be food poisoning and exhaustion. The singer cancelled a performance at the Santa Monica Pier and told reporters at a make-up concert that she was “very malnourished and low on iron and exhausted.” Later, in an interview on Kidd Kraddick’s radio show, she said she “doesn’t eat right. I love everything that’s possibly not good for me.”
Could the hard-charging lifestyles often led by celebrities be a factor that might weaken their immune systems and make them more vulnerable to harmful bacteria?
On June 10, 2011, singer Jennifer Hudson suffered what reportedly was a case of severe food poisoning between appearances on Good Morning America and the Early Show to promote her new album, “I Remember Me.” Hudson complained of “abdominal pain” and was unable to perform.
For musician Lady Gaga, not performing was not an option. During her Monster Ball Tour in 2011, the star refused to cancel her show after she was diagnosed with food poisoning. “I was vomiting backstage during the changes. Nobody knew,” said Gaga in an interview with Vogue magazine. “I just Jedi mind-tricked my body. ‘You will not vomit onsatge.’ I certainly wouldn’t want [the audience] them to think I had something so ordinary as food poisoning.”
Singer-songwriter-actress Katy Perry, however, was not able to go on during a tour in July 2011,‘ when “an attack of food poisoning leading to severe dehydration” forced her to bow out of two performances in Chicago and St. Paul.
Although he may be well-versed in the ways of magic, even Harry Potter is susceptible to foodborne illness. In 2010, actor Daniel Radcliffe became very ill on a flight to New York. Radcliffe was hospitalized for two days and treated for dehydration.
Actress-singer Mandy Moore was hit with a bout of poisoning in January 2011, which she attributed to fish. Moore tweeted, ‘”Food poisoning is the worst. It will be a long time before I can even look at a piece of fish.”
In January this year, singer Miranda Lambert suffered from a severe sickness supposedly due to a shrimp dish and took several days to recover. “Food poisoning… Take this. That was a near death experience. No more shrimp for me,” tweeted Lambert on January 8.
But do these stars actually know what made them ill? While it is a common perception that the last food item ingested is what caused illness, this is often not the case.
According to STOP Foodborne Illness, adverse reactions can be caused by food eaten a few hours ago, a few days ago, a few weeks ago, or even a few months ago. The length of time between when one eats something and when one gets sick — called the incubation period — can vary depending on the pathogen in contaminated food, but it’s often at least a full day.
The incubation period for norovirus, for example, is usually between 24 and 48 hours after exposure. More than half of all foodborne disease outbreaks in the U.S. can be attributed to noroviruses.
For Salmonella illnesses, the time from eating a contaminated food to the beginning of symptoms is typically one to three days, sometimes longer. For E. coli infection, the incubation time is three to four days.
While foodborne illnesses may just appear to be a temporary inconvenience — what many people incorrectly call “stomach flu” — some can result in long-term health problems, including diabetes or high blood pressure. Though young children, the elderly, pregnant women, and those with weakened immune systems are more at risk than the general population, any one is susceptible to coming down with foodborne illness.
If you think you have contracted a foodborne illness, contact your doctor, ask for a stool analysis, and try to remain hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids.
Julia Thomas and Olivia Marler, student reporters from Bainbridge Island, WA, co-authored this report.