Tips&TricksSafely storing and consuming leftover rice: Guidelines to prevent 'reheated rice syndrome'

Safely storing and consuming leftover rice: Guidelines to prevent 'reheated rice syndrome'

From now on, I don't leave cooked rice for later.
From now on, I don't leave cooked rice for later.
Images source: © Adobe Stock | Africa Studio

10:26 PM EST, February 10, 2024

Rice is a versatile and excellent alternative to potatoes, pasta, or grits, forming the base of countless delicious dishes. No wonder so many people love rice, often favoring one particular variety. However, it's common to overcook the quantity, producing a surplus. Instead of wasting this surplus, it's typically stored for later consumption. The question then becomes - how should we store rice to ensure it's still safe to eat?

Is leftover rice potentially harmful?

Many people are concerned that yesterday's rice could potentially do more harm than good, fearing the risk of food poisoning. This worry stems from the bacteria Bacillus cereus, which can swiftly proliferate in food, making it unfit for consumption. Neither heat nor cold can kill these bacteria, and they quickly produce a toxin that can result in what's called "reheated rice syndrome."

While some believe that infection with this bacterium can lead to serious complications, statistics show that it usually results in mild food poisoning. Only 1% of patients required hospitalization, and no one has died from Bacillus cereus contracted from rice. The only significant consequence might be a 24-hour period of digestive distress that typically resolves itself. So how can we safely consume cooked rice and avoid this potential discomfort?

How to consume rice without causing harm?

Most experts agree that the safety of consuming rice is determined in the first two hours after cooking, during which the rice should not be exposed to extremely cold or hot temperatures. Freshly cooked rice should be cooled as quickly as possible to prevent bacterial spores from multiplying. If you plan on reheating leftover rice, ensure it reaches a temperature of at least 158 degrees Fahrenheit for a minimum of 15 seconds to effectively destroy any bacteria.

By following these guidelines, you can safely store and consume cooked rice for up to seven days without compromising your health. While some suggest a maximum storage time of five days, proper handling of rice post-cooking allows for a longer shelf life, so you can enjoy your rice meals for several days without any unwanted surprises.

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