You Need to Know About “Fried Rice Syndrome.”
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder
Back in 2019, I published a blog about a 20-year-old college student who died after eating leftover pasta that had been left out at room temperature for five days. Here we are, a few years later, and this same story recently went viral on TikTok. I think this very tragic event is worth revisiting, because with the holidays coming up there will be increased food preparation and storage. When I shared this story in 2019, I didn’t know at the time that there is actually a name for the condition that caused this young man to pass - “Fried Rice Syndrome.”
"Fried Rice Syndrome is a form of food poisoning caused by the Bacillus cereus bacterium. This bacteria is commonly found in foods that have been sitting at room temperature for extended periods," said emergency medicine physician Dr. Joe, who was referenced in this article from Buzzfeed.
“In dishes like fried rice, the bacteria can produce toxins as the food cools down, leading to symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps."
Furthermore, "Bacillus cereus can grow in various starchy foods, not just fried rice. This can include whole wheat and veggie noodles if they are improperly stored."
As a general rule of thumb, you certainly don’t want to eat any food that has been left out at room temperature for several hours and certainly not for several days. Dr. Joe reports that perishable food should never be left out for more than two hours. Doing this gives dangerous bacteria the opportunity to grow.Don't let the name "Fried Rice Syndrome" make you think this issue is limited to only a certain type of food.
“The diarrheal illness is often related to meats, milk, vegetables, and fish. The emetic [vomiting] illness is most often associated with rice products, but it has also been associated with other types of starchy products such as potato, pasta, and cheese. Some food mixtures (sauces, puddings, soups, casseroles, pastries, and salads, have been associated with food-borne illness in general,” according to a report published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
So with Thanksgiving just around the corner, you do not want to be leaving your casseroles, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes and other dishes out for too long. Although it is rare to die from “Fried Rice Syndrome,” avoiding foodborne illness in general is something you want to be proactive about.
The woman purchased the pesto, but she did not eat it until a month later. She said the pesto did not have an expiration date and tasted very good. Most food items at a farmer’s market are very fresh or even homemade, so it is likely they will expire quickly unlike processed and packaged foods at the grocery store.
I am in no way deterring people from going to their local farmer’s market. These markets are a great opportunity to stock up on local, seasonal and fresh nutrient-dense foods. I highly recommended reading this older pH blog - Farmers’ Markets Food Safety. Here’s What You Need to Know.
In addition to this, check out the CDC’s Four Steps to Food Safety: Clean, Separate, Cook, Chill. I would also look at the CDC’s 10 Dangerous Food Safety Mistakes. The food mistakes article is really key, because there is a huge debate on social media on whether you should wash chicken before cooking it. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen food bloggers wash raw chicken with lemon and water before cooking. This is completely unnecessary and even risky.
“Washing raw meat, chicken, turkey, or eggs can spread germs to your sink, countertops, and other surfaces in your kitchen. Those germs can get on other foods, like salads or fruit, and make you sick,” according to the CDC.
If you are cooking your meat and eggs properly and to the necessary internal temperature, harmful bacteria will likely be killed.When in doubt, throw it out.
If you are debating whether you should eat those leftovers or forgot how long they have been in your refrigerator, just toss them. I hate wasting food just as much as the next person, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. And of course, if the food has an odor or has mold, throw it out immediately.
Enjoy your healthy life!
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice. Please consult with your doctor or another competent healthcare practitioner to get specific medical advice for your situation.
The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses, and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products, and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.