A few months ago, we learned that if you eat food that's been sitting out too long, it could lead to serious health complications. And, in rare cases, it could cause death. It is a phenomenon that some medical experts refer to as "Fried Rice Syndrome":
Now people across the internet are pointing out another important aspect to keep in mind: Even if you don't leave your rice out at room temperature for very long, simply keeping it in your fridge for more than a day can be harmful.
Some people are even sharing how reheated, leftover rice has landed them in the hospital with food poisoning.
BuzzFeed found one expert who experienced this firsthand — and her story went viral. Dr. Lauren DeDecker is a resident physician in internal medicine who got so ill from rice she had to be transported to a hospital via helicopter.
She told BuzzFeed that while visiting the Himalayas, she ordered a "traditional sweet rice dish from Nepal." However, after a few hours, she became violently ill. "The following day I was too dehydrated and weak to leave. I had to be helicoptered to the nearest bigger town to get IV fluids," she shared.
Luckily, Dr. DeDecker was fine after she received medical care. "Before I left, I asked how had they prepared my dinner. They told me openly that the rice dish had been made in a large pot that morning, had been out at room temperature all day, then reheated and served that night for dinner. So, it hadn't been refrigerated. While I can't know for certain that it was the B. Cereus food poisoning — or Fried Rice Syndrome — based on what I ate and that history, it's very likely that that's what it was," she explained. You can listen to her story about it on TikTok here.
Dr. DeDecker said the safest recommendation is to put any rice that you're not going to consume immediately in the fridge within one to two hours of cooking (but one hour is safer). The most important thing to note, however, is that you should only reheat rice ONCE. "Let's say you have leftovers. You would not want to take some of that rice, reheat it, not finish it, put it back in the fridge, and then reheat that same portion of rice again."
Reheating rice more than once, according to Dr. DeDecker, increases the risk that you could get B. Cereus because you're increasing the time that it's not properly cooled or heated. "Bacteria is ubiquitous in the environment, it's not rare, but it's not going to be in all rice and green products. You're not going to know if it is in the rice or not because it's microscopic. And this goes for white, fried rice, any rice," she explained.
However, many people on TikTok are saying this phenomenon isn't real because they've reheated rice a million times and it has never happened to them...but Dr. DeDecker said it is very real. "The bacteria is not going to be in every single vat or package of rice. It also takes a certain amount of bacteria to make you sick. When cooked rice is out at room temperature for too long, the bacteria and the spores can multiply and increase in number and so the load can get high enough to make you ill," she added.
So, let's go over Dr. DeDecker's safest practices so that we can do our best to prevent this illness from happening in our own lives: "To prevent getting sick, serve rice as soon as it has been cooked. Then, put the leftover rice in the fridge within one hour of cooking it. Keep the rice in the fridge no longer than one day. Do not reheat the same portion of rice more than once. Rice should be stored below 40 degrees Fahrenheit."
You can read more about how to prevent Bacillus cereus here.