Hot, fluffy, steaming rice is delicious, but unfortunately, it also provides the perfect conditions for potentially nasty bacteria to grow. bacillus cereusamong other bacteria, are common in uncooked rice, and boiling alone is not enough to kill them, as they produce spores that tolerate heat.
Once cooked, rice left to sit at room temperature can harbor a bacterial bonanza as they multiply and release harmful toxins, sometimes leading to B. cereus food poisoning, also known as “fried rice syndrome”. Avoiding it depends on how you prepare, cook, and store your rice after cooking.
Preparing and storing rice
Hand washing is always a good start when preparing food, and while washing rice can change its texture and eliminate bugs or heavy metals lurking among the grains, it doesn’t eliminate B. cereus. This is because the bacteria are embedded in the grains, so they’re not going anywhere.
You want to boil the rice before boiling to keep the temperature up and not fall into the danger zone creating a hot tub for bacteria to multiply. The cooked result should be served immediately or quickly cooled and placed in a refrigerator or freezer container. Avoid letting cooked rice sit for more than an hour.
How to reheat rice
Leftover rice can be microwaved, fried, or steamed while reheating, but it is only safe to do so if the cooked rice has been cooled and stored properly. If you went to bed with a box of fried rice and some Netflix before falling asleep for four hours, it’s possible that reheating the rice at room temperature might turn out to be bad.
This is because heating and cooling and heating again breeds harmful bacteria like B. cereus a great opportunity to grow, increasing your chances of fried rice syndrome. It’s worth noting that fried rice syndrome isn’t specific to fried rice, you can get it from any type. However, fried rice recipes that call for leftovers are an easy place to stumble, as by the time the final dish is ready, it’s already been heated through twice.
How dangerous is fried rice syndrome?
B. cereus food poisoning can be fatal in severe cases, and although it is known as fried rice syndrome, it can also occur from other foods such as pasta. A 2011 case study determined that a 20-year-old student died of B. cereus poisoning within 10 hours of eating five-day-old pasta. A similar case occurred in 2003, when a family ate an 8-day-old pasta salad, resulting in one death and five children admitted to the hospital.
What are the symptoms of fried rice syndrome?
Fried rice syndrome usually presents with vomiting and diarrhea triggered by the toxin. B. cereus produces as it grows. In most cases, the illness will be self-limiting and will be over in a day or two, but for some people it can progress and even be fatal.
Antibiotics are not effective because it is the toxin that causes the disease, not the bacteria; therefore, treatment focuses primarily on fluid replacement until the worst of the GI symptoms have passed. That’s why prevention is the best protection, so you’re probably better off not reheating the rice a second time.
You never know how many times that shrimp has fried it.
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The content of this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified healthcare providers with questions you may have about medical conditions.