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Could Your Rice Habits be Hurting You?

Could Your Rice Habits be Hurting You?

Of course, fresh, hot rice is always the goal in any of the rice-based dishes loved by locals. But what if your family members eat dinner at different times? Or the rice for your gumbo sits out during a football party? Turns out that rice is particularly susceptible to bacteria growth, so let’s find out how to avoid getting sick from your Monday tradition of red beans and rice.

Uncooked rice typically contains spores of Bacillus cereus, a bacterium that can cause food poisoning. Food poisoning is never a fun situation, but it can be dangerous for those with a weakened immune system.

This is a common enough occurrence that it’s been coined “fried rice syndrome.” Once rice is cooked, some of these spores hang around. Bacteria can grow rapidly in temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees, so if the rice is left sitting on the stove or countertop for more than two hours, those spores will grow, producing a toxin that could make you sick with vomiting and diarrhea. (If the rice sits out for one hour on a hot day (90 degrees or hotter) during an outdoors function, toss it.)

Outside of dinner time, many people cook or meal prep for the week ahead, so here’s how to do that safely if rice is involved:

  • Cool the rice to room temperature first. If you made a huge pot, divide it into batches using shallow containers to help the cooling process.
  • Place in resealable bag or storage container, which helps keep bacteria out.
  • Store in refrigerator for up to four days, or in the freezer for one to two months.
  • Don’t reheat the same batch more than once.

Rice isn’t the only bacteria breeder -- any grain, like pasta for example, can harbor bacteria if not stored and reheated correctly. If you want to play it extra safe, toss out the leftover rice and make a new batch to go with your leftover red beans or curry.