Back in 2016, 62-year-old Germaine Mobley from Texas went to Asia King Buffet with a friend. She had been there many times before and ordered one of her favorite dishes: Fried rice. On her drive home, however, she began to feel unwell. The next day she ended up in the hospital with severe food poisoning. What did they determine she suffered from? Fried Rice Syndrome. (1)
What is Fried Rice Syndrome?
Fried Rice Syndrome is a type of food poisoning caused by consuming rice that has been cooked and left at room temperature for too long. The bacteria known as Bacillus cereus are the primary cause of this illness. When rice sits at room temperature for an extended period, these bacteria can thrive, and the toxins they produce are not destroyed upon reheating. (2)
Mobley says that all of her food tasted fine when she ate it but that it wasn’t until she was part way home that she started to feel sick. When she got home, she vomited profusely. The next morning she was so unwell she could barely breathe. Her husband called an ambulance, whisking her off to the hospital. The doctors found she was exposed to Bacillus cereus, the bacteria associated with foodborne illness from rice that was left sitting out too long.
The experience was terrifying for Mobley, who said she was afraid for her life at one point. She says she won’t be eating rice at any more buffets again. Her goal in telling her story is to prevent the same thing from other people. According to The Dallas Morning News, she also attempted to sue Asia King Buffet for poor food safety practices, in 2018.
“You’re taking the chance at getting very ill when you’re eating at a rice buffet,” Mobley said. “You could be the next person.”
The symptoms of Fried Rice Syndrome can be unpleasant and cause great discomfort. They can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, and in rare cases, even death. These symptoms can appear within an hour of consuming the contaminated rice. (3)
The good news is that Fried Rice Syndrome is entirely preventable with some simple steps. First and foremost, it is essential to ensure you cook rice correctly. Once it is done, it should be placed in a shallow container and stored in the refrigerator at or below 40°F within 2 hours. To ensure proper storage, divide larger quantities of rice into several smaller containers, or use a large shallow pan to quickly cool it before transferring it to the refrigerator.
If you plan to keep the rice at room temperature for consumption, it should not be left out for more than 2 hours. Additionally, make sure to reheat the rice to a temperature of at least 165°F before serving. This will help to kill any bacteria that may be present.
If you suspect you have Fried Rice Syndrome, the first step is to stay hydrated. Drink plenty of fluids, such as water or electrolyte drinks, to help replace the fluids lost through vomiting and diarrhea. Over-the-counter medication, such as Pepto-Bismol or Imodium, can help alleviate symptoms. If symptoms persist or become severe, seek medical attention immediately.
The Bottom Line
Fried Rice Syndrome is a serious foodborne illness resulting from eating rice left at room temperature for too long. To prevent the occurrence of this illness, it is essential to follow proper food storage and safety guidelines when handling rice and other foods. If you suspect you may have contracted Fried Rice Syndrome, seek medical attention immediately to ensure you receive the proper treatment.
Keep Reading: Italy moves to ban lab-grown meat to protect food heritage
- “Lawsuit: Woman sues buffet for $1 million after getting ‘Fried Rice Syndrome’.” WFAA. Matt Howerton. June 27, 2018.
- “Here’s What Happens When You Eat Leftover Rice—and Why Reheating It Doesn’t Help.” RD. Alyssa Sybertz. July 6, 2023
- “Fried Rice Syndrome, a Disease of Fast World: Scientific Analysis.” Bio Med Grid. Mohammad Nazrul Islam. October 29, 2019.