Can one get food poisoned by eating rice?
Posted on August 6th, 2012

Dr Hector Perera         London

The answer is yes and no. I am sure most Sri Lankans have been eating rice ever since they can remember but I never even heard about food poisoning by eating rice.

Food poisoning is the type of gastroenteritis caused by eating or drinking something contaminated with micro-organisms or germs, or by toxic substances produced by these germs. It’s estimated there are more than nine million cases of reported gastroenteritis in America each year by eating and drinking various kinds of food, not just one kind of food.

The word food poisoning is a vast subject but let me be specific to a particular type of food, rice. Any food can cause food poisoning, just not rice. The staple diet of Asians is rice whether they live in Asia or in any other country such as America, Australia or England. There is a saying in Sinhalese, the cat always meows even if we took it to Singapore, so Asians always eat rice in spit of the country they live but some of them pretend that they do not eat rice, simply because they live outside motherland, Sri Lanka. Well I have nothing to hide, not only I eat rice but when time permits, I even cook rice and other things at home based on my energy saving scientific cooking.

Unlike in the past, now just walk into a supermarket to find ready to eat rice is served at the delicacy counter. Just not rice, anything you need is also displayed, cooked chicken, devilled beef, BBQ chicken, spare ribs, lentil curry and plenty of other things, including papa dams. One might ask the question, who needs to be bothered to cook at home when ready to eat rice is available even at supermarkets not just in restaurants and at takeaways. Apart from the rice served at the delicacy counter, you will find a variety of cooked rice in packets on the shelves. The packed rice might have been cooked a few weeks or months ago with additives, preservatives to keep them for a long period until the sell by date. One cannot blame the manufacturers for adding these preservatives because their aim is to serve the food in an edible state. According to the research information, cooked and uncooked rice has a bacterium called bacillus cereus.

 Problems with cooked rice

What makes you sick is Bacillus cereus, says CSIRO food microbiologist Cathy Moir. The main risk with cooked rice is from the food poisoning bacteria called Bacillus cereus. The bacterium forms a hard outer coating called a spore. This spore protects the bacteria from heat. If the rice is then cold, slowly the spore will germinate producing more bacteria. These bacteria produce poisons or toxins. Re-heating the rice will destroy some of the bacteria but they will leave behind their toxins which are not damaged by heat. These toxins cause illness.

One might say that reheating rice can cause food poisoning. Is this true? It’s true that you could get food poisoning from eating reheated rice. But actually the reheating is not the problem, it’s the way the rice has been stored before reheating.
What about the uncooked rice?

The uncooked rice can contain spores of Bacillus cereus bacteria that can cause food poisoning. As stated above uncooked rice can contain spores of Bacillus cereus, the bacterium that causes food poisoning. When the rice is cooked, the spores can survive then if the rice is left standing at room temperature; the spores will multiply and may produce toxins that cause vomiting or diarrhoea.

My question is.

My question is, why not cook rice at home, than depending for cooked rice from takeaways and from supermarkets, it’s not too tedious as one might thought. In the past there were no gas or electric cookers to most of Sri Lankans, they depended on firewood stove cooking. I admit the fact that cooking rice on firewood stoves is not so easy because one has not enough control over the fire, it often goes pear shaped. Most of the times, it burns at the bottom or under cook or over cook. Now they found a solution, just use a rice cooker to get it perfect. Again most of the common people haven’t got these electrical gadgets although they have electricity.

I must say the servants cooked rice perfectly on firewood stoves because they know exactly how to cook due to years of practice but now these servants are long gone, actually some of them have already went abroad for foreign employment.

I found out by experiments that most of the gas that is wasted in cooking rice or any other things can be saved, if one cooked methodically. I have mentioned before as well, cooking is a chemical reaction and kitchen is a kind of chemistry laboratory, all foods are chemicals. Not just rice, any other form of food can get food poisoned but sometimes they do not single out it’s only due to rice. I am sure just not rice, may be other things as well are responsible for giving stomach up sets for which now they called food poisoning in general. Any comments please [email protected]


5 Responses to “Can one get food poisoned by eating rice?”

  1. Fran Diaz Says:

    In the old days, I remember that cooks had to remove stones and grit from rice using a ‘naambiliya’ (clay pot with grooves to catch the grit), next wash the rice and then cook it. In modern times, the rice is usually clean of stones and grit, and there is no need for that procedure.

    People in the know about cooking rice tells us that rice should be washed several times (3 or even 7 times !) prior to cooking. This, we presume, is to wash out dirt, dust and other impurities including bacterial spores. Rice feels less ‘starchy’ and flakey, if washed well, whether it is white rice or brown rice. We are also told to initially cook the rice under high heat for a few minutes till the water boils and then reduce the heat to low, and continue to cook the rice under cover of lid of pot, till rice is light and flakey. There is no need to use rice cookers – rice can be cooked to perfection in an ordinary pot on a stove top. It is definitely harder to maintain an even temperature over wood fires, or adjust the wood fire, but our wonderful cooks of yesteryear had mastered the art of it all.

    Not only rice, but all grains, beans, lentils (dhal, mung) etc. must be washed & soaked thoroughly, preferably in warm or even hot water, prior to cooking. It is said that red dhal especially has a fine layer of ‘bad oil’ which must be removed prior to cooking.

    It is best we learn to cook rice & curries ourselves, as those wonderful ‘kussi ammas’ are fast becoming an extinct section of society !

  2. callistus Says:

    We want Mareena

  3. Dham Says:

    Yes. We want her. She can cook pork in the traditional way.

  4. Madhura Says:

    Is there a sole preservative or combination of food grade preservatives, which can be used to preserve “cooked rice” at least for ‘an year’? Or is food irradiation the easiest way for that..? Some one let me know please..

  5. Madhura Says:

    [email protected]

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