Fourteen-Year-Old Who Had an Allergic Reaction to Old Pan Cake Mix-Unproven! But Could Be True!


Summary of eRumor:

A message with what the email says is a Dear Abby column.  It tells the story of a 14-year-old boy who had a severe reaction to what his mother determined to be pancakes made from an old mix.  The mother found a case on the Internet of a 19-year-old who died after eating out-of-date pancake mix.

The Truth:

This Dear Abby article was published in newspapers in April, 2006.  There’s no indication that Jeanne Phillips, who writes Dear Abby, authenticated the story, but if it is true, it may be describing an allergic reaction such as to mold, which could have developed in the pancake mix.  If so, it’s not a condition uniquely associated with pancake mixes but one that could develop in many foods and does not normally affect healthy people, only those with severe allergic reactions to various kinds of molds.

The woman in the article refers to a 19-year-old who died from eating pancakes from an outdated mix. That is probably in reference to a report from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Forensic Section Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston.  It tells of an anaphylactic reaction in a 19-year-old who was known to have allergic reactions to a variety of substances.  He and his friends ate some pancakes made from a mix that had been opened and sitting on a shelf for approximately 2 years.  Two of the friends stopped eating the pancakes because they didn’t like the taste.  The 19-year-old continued eating, started experiencing shortness of breath, and later died at a nearby clinic.

Last updated 5/11/06

A real example of the eRumor as it has appeared on the Internet:

 /By Abigail Van Buren /
 DEAR ABBY: I recently made a batch of pancakes for my healthy
14-year-old son, using a mix that was in our pantry. He said that they
tasted “funny,” but ate them anyway. About 10 minutes later, he began
having difficulty breathing and his lips began turning purple. I gave
him his allergy pill, had him sit on the sofa and told him to relax.
He was wheezing while inhaling and exhaling.

 My husband, a volunteer firefighter and EMT, heated up some water, and
we had my son lean over the water so the steam could clear his chest
and sinuses. Soon, his breathing became more regular and his lips
returned to a more normal color.

 We checked the date on the box of pancake mix and, to my dismay, found
it was very outdated. As a reference librarian at an academic
institution, I have the ability to search through many research
databases. I did just that, and found an article the next day that
mentioned a 19-year-old male DYING after eating pancakes made with
outdated mix. Apparently, the mold that forms in old pancake mix can
be toxic!

 When we told our friends about my son’s close call, we were surprised
at the number of people who mentioned that they should check their own
pancake mix since they don’t use it often, or they had purchased it
some time ago. With so many people shopping at warehouse-type stores
and buying large sizes of pancake mix, I hope your readers will take
the time to check the expiration date on their boxes. — SUE IN