Have you come across the term ‘fried rice syndrome’ yet? This health condition has recently caused panic online, with internet users engaging in an intense conversation related to food safety. According to a report in The Conversation, it all started after the case of a 20-year-old who died in 2008 resurfaced online. As per the news article, the college student died after allegedly reheating and eating five-day-old spaghetti that was left out of the fridge. Originally published in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology, the case was referred to as ‘rare’ and focused on the death of the student after eating Bacillus cereus-affected food.
The news has left social media panic-stricken, with people wondering if it is safe to store food for long. Is it safe to eat leftover food? How long can you keep cooked food in storage? Well, we delved deep to understand ‘fried rice syndrome’ and the science behind this type of food poisoning. Let’s take you through.
Also Read: 5 Simple Precautions You Should Take To Avoid Food Poisoning
What Is Fried Rice Syndrome? What Is The Origin of The Term?
To put it simply, ‘fried rice syndrome’ is a type of food poisoning caused by Bacillus cereus (or B. cereus) in starchy foods like rice and pasta. According to the journal Microbial Pathogenesis, the term originated from the first exposure to a fried rice dish contaminated with B. cereus. This happened in Europe in the 20th century when the country experienced numerous foodborne outbreaks related to food poisoning or illness.
What Causes Fried Rice Syndrome?
As mentioned, B. cereus bacteria can contaminate a wide range of foods, including starchy and meat products. The bacteria found widely in the environment, grow on food that is not stored properly and left unattended for long. According to the study in Microbial Pathogenesis, B. cereus releases a deadly toxin named cereulide that primarily affects food rich in protein. Furthermore, the cereulide toxin that B. cereus produces is resistant to heat and cannot be destroyed through cooking.
Also Read: Gut: What Is The Difference Between Food Poisoning & Stomach Flu?
What Are The Symptoms Of Fried Rice Syndrome?
The symptoms of this infection are not usually deadly. According to the official website of the Singapore Food Agency (www.sfa.gov.sg), it leads to vomiting and diarrhea, with a loss of fluid in the body. These conditions can easily be averted in a few days, but people with underlying health conditions need extra medical attention.
How To Prevent Or Reduce The Risks Of Fried Rice Syndrome?
According to the Food Standards Agency, “Uncooked rice can contain spores of bacteria that can cause food poisoning. When the rice is cooked, the spores can survive; but if the rice is then left standing at room temperature, the spores will multiply and may cause vomiting or diarrhea. Reheating the rice will only make it worse.”
But that doesn’t mean you should toss the leftover rice, spaghetti, and meat after every meal. Instead, follow some general rules while cooking, storing, and reheating these foods, and you are good to go!
1. The best practice is to cook food at a high temperature and consume it immediately.
2. As per the Food Standards Agency, don’t leave cooked food unattended for more than an hour. It may lead to the production of B. cereus bacteria.
3. Let the extra food cool down and immediately transfer it to the refrigerator at a temperature below four degrees Celsius, states the Singapore Food Agency (SFA).
4. Store the food in an airtight container to lock in moisture and prevent cross-contamination, especially with raw food, as per SFA.
5. According to consultant nutritionist Rupali Datta, the best practice is to consume the cooked food within 24 hours, that too after heating it to above 60 degrees Celsius.
6. Rupali Datta further suggests that foods cooked in bulk should be stored in smaller portions and consumed after reheating.
“The best practice is to learn basic food safety practices to make life healthy on a day-to-day basis. Eating mindfully is the key to healthy living,” concludes Rupali Datta.