As a matter of principle, I don’t give my kids last night’s leftover rice – even though it’s been refrigerated.  It’s probably a habit that developed in my family:  “give the kids fresh rice.”  And being Indian and all, of course we eat A LOT of rice.  So I’m wondering about the reasons for this.  And why would leftover rice be bad just for kids?

Apparently, rice in raw form (be it brown, white, basmati, whatever) contains spores of a bacteria called Bacillus cereus.  These spores can survive the cooking process and germinate into bacteria when cooked rice is left standing at room temperature.  Reheating the rice doens’t destroy the bacteria either.

I’m admittedly a bit skeptical of all of this – I remember the summers I spent in my grandmother’s village, where it was common practice to eat leftover rice (and my grandmother didn’t even own a refrigerator).  I’m sure this was and is common practice in many Asian countries.  Maybe everyone had built a resistance to the bacteria?

Food safety for handling cooked rice is not something you hear a lot about in the US or elsewhere, but check out the advice from the governments of New Zealand (Food Safety Authority) and the UK (Food Standards Agency).

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to take any chances.  Here are some best practices when it comes to handling leftover cooked rice:

  • Refrigerate the rice as soon as possible after cooking and consuming – ideally within 1-2 hours
  • * When reheating, make sure it’s steaming hot all the way through (and avoid reheating more than once)
  • * Keep leftover rice in the refrigerator for no longer than 1 day before re-using
  • * Be careful of leftover takeaway rice – you don’t the history of this rice before it got to you

I think I’ll stick to these rules – nothing is worth a day of vomiting…


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8 Responses to “Beware of Leftover Rice | Food Safety”

  1. Pink Quinoa Tweet | How Do You Cook Quinoa? Says:

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  2. BC Wong Says:

    Two years ago, I discovered that every time I eat leftover rice brought from home for lunch that I would develop a headache in the afternoon. At that time, I thought it was that particular brand or strain of rice that caused the problem. Last year, I carelessly ate several meals with a new bag of rice that I thought did not cause the same problem but I was wrong. I developed chronic sinusitis, and as I was taking antibiotics for the sinus infection other problems begin to develop. After a whole year of searching for answers, I can confirm that Bacillus Cereus had been the root cause of my year long illness. I’m recovering from it now but will avoid eating leftover rice or cooked rice of unknown origin – since you don’t know how long the restaurant has kept the rice in the fridge.

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  5. James Frank. Says:

    many years ago I without knowing had some bad rice.

    My batman brought me food from the kitchen which was part of my remuneration. Unfortunatley the rice was left over from the morning only reheated just.

    Bad all afternoon and all night vomit[rice] and the runs at the same time, next day bad, no strength, felt really poorly.

    Do not do it. You do not want to know. I am very careful I buy all ready processed rice to reduce the risk. I inspect the kitchens now when I am away. It works, they do not like it. Tough.

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