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Can eating leftover rice kill you? The alarm that went viral on TikTok

Can eating leftover rice kill you? The alarm that went viral on TikTok

Once again, TikTok has fueled debates about food safety.

In recent weeks, a news story from 2008 resurfaced on the social media platform, terrifying users about the dangers of eating leftover rice or pasta. On TikTok, it's referred to as "fried rice syndrome."

Originally published in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology, the story focused on the death of a Brussels-based student after consuming a plate of spaghetti prepared five days earlier.

So it might make you wonder: How long can food be left in the fridge?
What is 'fried rice syndrome'?
In the case of the student from Brussels, the illness was poisoning caused by the bacterium Bacillus cereus.

Found throughout the environment in its dormant form, the microorganism usually does not cause disease, explained Dr. Ellen Shumaker, a food safety expert in North Carolina.

The organism is often seen in soil and starchy food (again, like rice or pasta). According to Shumaker, it is mostly associated with cooked rice.

Once cooked, the expert explained, the spores can germinate, become active and begin to create toxins. "Eating the toxin is what makes people sick," Shumaker said.
How long can we leave starchy food at room temperature before it spoils?
"The general recommendation is to leave cooked foods at room temperature no longer than two hours," Schaffer noted. "If cooked foods are stored immediately in the refrigerator, this means that the organism will not multiply to dangerous levels."

Once cooked, spores of the bacterium Bacillus cereus can germinate on rice and other starchy foods, causing illness after they are left out at room temperature to multiply.

Many comments focus on the assumption that keeping still warm foods in the refrigerator can negatively affect the food. But it turns out that this is not true, experts say.