Safe cooling of cooked rice
Very few people realise that improperly stored cooked rice can be a cause of food poisoning.
Uncooked rice often contains the bacteria Bacillus cereus. These bacteria can form protective spores that survive the cooking process and if the rice is cooled slowly (and left between 5 °C and 60 °C for a long time), these bacteria spores can germinate, grow and produce a toxin (poison) that causes vomiting.
Can I tell if cooked rice is safe to eat?
No, there is no way of telling if cooked rice is contaminated with Bacillus cereus as it will not look, taste or smell different to normal rice.
Does reheating cooked rice kill the bacteria?
No, reheating cooked rice before eating does not kill the spores or and any toxins that have already been produced and can still make you ill.
Any cooked rice that has been stored at incorrect temperatures (between 5 °C and 60 °C for a long time) will be still unsafe to eat.
Food businesses that serve cooked rice must ensure that any rice prepared earlier has cooled down and stored correctly. This is required by law.
How can I reduce the risk of illness from eating cooked rice?
These simple tips will reduce your risk of illness from eating cooked rice:
- If you must cook rice in advance, do not cook more than you need at one time.
- Either keep cooked rice hot (above 60 °C) or cool the rice as quickly as possible and store in a refrigerator below 5 °C.
- Rice cools quicker if removed from the hot container and divided into smaller, clean shallow containers less than 10 cm deep. Keep the containers separate, not stacked.
- Alternatively, you can cool the rice in a colander under cold running water before storing in a refrigerator below 5 °C.
Contact the environmental health officer in your local government area (external site).
You can also contact the Department of Health Environmental Health Directorate on phone 9388 4999.
- Cooked rice can be source of food poisoning if it has not been cooled safely.
- Following safe food handling tips when storing cooked rice can reduce your risk of food poisoning.
Food Unit, Public Health
This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.