Reheating Rice Isn't Advised Due to Bacteria, But It Probably Won't Kill You

Alex West - Author

Feb. 2 2024, Published 8:21 a.m. ET

Misinformation can spread quickly on the internet and some can even be life or death. A video recently went viral that left people with the impression that reheating rice can kill you.

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"Being a med student means never being able to comfortably reheat rice ever again," wrote Janny Garcia over a video of herself putting rice in the microwave. The TikTok video caused panic among users as they reconsidered their own leftover habits.

A woman holding a bowl of rice
Source: Getty Images
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Can reheating rice kill you?

Luckily, someone stepped in to set the record straight. It turns out that Janny gave everyone a scare and it's a bit more complicated than that. Food52, a food publication and company, took to TikTok in response to explain just what was going on. "It's called reheated rice syndrome and it's actually pretty dangerous," their startling statement explained.

As the explanation continued, it all became a little bit less scary. They explained that reheating rice isn't necessarily what causes the issue, despite the name. Once rice is stored as leftovers, it begins to grow a certain type of bacteria.

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Most food does this and rice is no different, but the specific type of bacteria is main the issue. Bacillus cereus is heat resistant. So, where other foods can simply nuke the bacteria way, it isn't quite that simple for rice.

Also, rice has a high water content, which makes it a bacteria breeding ground. To the naked eye, you would never know that anything has begun to grow, either, which makes this situation fairly common.

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"There's just a really high chance that in the short time, should be a short time, between cooking and storing your food in the refrigerator, that the rice has probably started to grow the spores," they continued. If the rice does grow spores, it could result in food poisoning.

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Here's where the death part comes in. "Hospital workers say it's some of the worst cases of food poisoning they've ever seen," they said. That food poisoning can actually lead to death, though. So, that's something to look out for.

They did advise that most food can be safely reheated as long as they go up to 165 degrees. When it comes to rice, though, they said to just throw it out to be safe.

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A community note on Twitter clarified: "Bacillus cereus can and does cause food poisoning, including from reheated rice. However, symptoms are typically mild and hospitalization is extremely rare. Out of an estimated 64,000 annual cases in the U.S., the CDC estimates only 20 lead to hospitalization."

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Online, people were incredibly stressed out about this information. One wrote, "After microbiology, I never saw food the same way. But after microbiology, I became even worse in my eating habits coz 1) I know they haven't grown yet."

While people were worried, plenty of others were just laughing about the situation. Another joked, "Bro I will drink from my water bottle until it has mold and then clean it under the pretense of good for my immune system."

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