Leftover rice is one of the key ingredients to delicious future meals, but it can also potentially serve up some scary bacteria. Recent research has shown that reheating rice, whether in the microwave or stovetop, can actually cause food poisoning. It's shocking considering how easily rice is made (just add water).

Why This Happens

tapioca, milk, rice, cereal, flour
Jocelyn Hsu

In uncooked rice, there's dormant bacteria called Bacillus cereus that lives in the rice granules, which causes food poisoning. These bacteria can then become activated once the rice is reheated.

You may be wondering why this doesn't occur in cooked rice, because isn't that also technically cooking rice? In fact, when cooking rice, not all the bacteria spores are destroyed, so when it's allowed to sit at room temperature, the moisture from the water and nutrients from the rice cause the bacteria grow. Afterwards, they release heat-stable toxins that are still present after reheating the rice.

When Food Poisoning Is Most Likely

risotto, salt, cereal, rice
Jocelyn Hsu

Consumption of room temperature rice is especially risky, since you've basically created the perfect environment for bacteria to grow. Roughly 2% of food-borne illnesses originate from eating leftover rice, which actually affects hundreds of people. Next time you put that leftover rice into your mouth, think again to make sure you've prepared it right.

How to Avoid This

risotto, cereal, rice
Jocelyn Hsu

One way to avoid food poisoning from reheating rice is to make just enough rice for one sitting. Try to avoid having leftovers, but if it's necessary, let the rice cool as quickly as possible and store it in the refrigerator. Use it the next day, or you can use it for other delicious goods.

Even though rice requires only two ingredients to make, not carefully storing leftovers could cause potential illnesses. And who wants to experience the backlash from bad food? Surely that's not how I think about rice.