close up of rice
Julie Hambleton
Julie Hambleton
February 13, 2024 ·  6 min read

Some People Claim That Day Old Rice is Dangerous, so Experts Have Weighed in

In recent times, there has been a lot of debate about the safety of consuming day-old rice, with some people claiming that it can be dangerous to your health. This notion has sparked considerable interest; with so many people consuming leftover rice, it has confused them. This has led experts to weigh in on the matter and shed light on the facts. Let’s explore both sides of the argument, evaluate the evidence, and provide clear guidelines regarding the safety of day-old rice.

Is Day-Old Rice Dangerous?

One popular belief is that leaving rice out at room temperature for more than two hours can result in serious health complications, even leading to death. The phenomenon in question is known as “Fried Rice Syndrome.” The concept revolves around the idea that food poisoning can occur from consuming rice that has been left out for too long, allowing bacteria to multiply and potentially cause harm.

Dr. Lauren DeDecker spoke about a terrifying illness that she experienced after eating rice that had not been stored properly. She described a trip to Nepal where she ate a traditional sweet rice dish. Not long after, she became so ill that she couldn’t even leave on her scheduled departure. Instead, she had to be air-lifted to the nearest town with a hospital, where she was put on IV fluids until she recovered.
“Before I left, I asked how had they prepared my dinner. They told me openly that the rice dish had been made in a large pot that morning, had been out at room temperature all day, then reheated and served that night for dinner. So, it hadn’t been refrigerated. While I can’t know for certain that it was the B. Cereus food poisoning — or Fried Rice Syndrome — based on what I ate and that history, it’s very likely that that’s what it was,” Dr. DeDecker explained. (1)

@drdedeck Why you shouldnt reheat rice or pasta after too long or more than once! Every med student knows about reheated rice syndrome, caused by the bacteria Baccilus cereus. While lots of people (esp in college…) get away with reheating rice and pasta the way you are not supposed to, it is SO not worth the risk. A few years ago when Logan, Hannah, and I went to Nepal, we went on a month long trek through the Himalayan mountains. Towards the end of the trek, I ordered a sweet rice dish for dinner at the teahouse we were sleeping at, and that night started having aggressive vomiting and the runs simultaneously. I was so dehydrated I couldn't hike out and we had to be helicoptered to Lukla to fly back to Kathmandu. Thank god I had bought travel insurance because the heli ride ended up being free (and gorgeous) 😉 ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #reheatingrice #healthtips #doctortips #reheatingricesyndrome #reheatingfood ♬ Oui oui oui oui – Sacha Distel

Should We Be Tossing Day-Old Rice?

Dr. DeDecker went on to talk about proper rice storage and pointed out how the biggest problem here was that the rice was not cooled or stored properly. Then, it was reheated and served again, causing her to get sick. She says that rice should be left out no more than a maximum of two hours at room temperature. From there, you should consume it the next day, after reheating it to a proper temperature throughout. Any more than one day, she says, and you should toss it away.

Some people, however, do not agree with her. They have commented saying that they regularly eat rice that is two, three, four, or more days old without ever having a problem. So is day-old rice really that risky? It is crucial to examine the scientific evidence and expert opinions to determine the actual risks associated with day-old rice. An Instagram user known as FoodScienceBabe recently went viral for debunking the claim that old rice is dangerous, whether refrigerated or not. Erin, who goes by the pseudonym FoodScienceBabe, is a Chemical Engineer and Food Scientist who dedicates much of her online presence to debunking food and nutrition-related misinformation. According to her, as long as rice is cooled and reheated properly, it can be safely consumed for up to three or four days. (2)

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She agrees that rice should not be left at room temperature for more than 2 hours maximum – preferably no more than one hour. Rice should either be kept at 140℉ throughout or should be cooled to below 40℉ as quickly as possible, she says. This means putting the rice in shallow containers and in thin layers, allowing it to cool as quickly as possible. If it is a large quantity, then it should be divided into several containers and put in the refrigerator. From there, she says it can be kept for three or even four days. Again, when reheating, you want to get the rice up to a proper temperature throughout so that if any bacteria has formed, it will be killed.

Read More: 8 of The Most Dangerous Foods in the World

Understanding Bacillus Cereus

To understand the potential risks, it is important to consider the bacteria of concern. One such bacterium is Bacillus cereus, commonly found in soil and capable of contaminating uncooked rice. During the cooking process, the spores of B. cereus can survive and, if the rice is not handled correctly, these dormant spores can multiply and lead to foodborne illnesses. (3)

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) emphasize the importance of proper food handling, storage, and reheating techniques to prevent foodborne illnesses. Their guidelines suggest that cooked rice should be refrigerated promptly, ideally within two hours of cooking, to slow down or prevent bacterial growth. (4)

Reheating the rice to an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) is crucial to eliminate any potential pathogenic bacteria. It is important to note that reheating rice more than once increases the risk of bacterial growth, as it prolongs the time that the rice is not properly cooled or heated. It is advisable to reheat only the portion of rice that will be consumed immediately and not to reheat it multiple times.

It All Depends on Bacteria Concentration

While some TikTok users claim that they have reheated rice multiple times without any negative health effects, it is essential to remember that the presence and concentration of bacteria can vary. The microscopic nature of the bacteria makes it difficult to determine whether rice is contaminated or not. Hence, it is best to follow the recommended guidelines to minimize the risk of foodborne illnesses. To prevent any potential risks, here are some clear guidelines to follow when dealing with day-old rice:

  1. Serve rice as soon as it has been cooked.
  2. Cool the leftover rice properly and refrigerate it within one hour of cooking.
  3. Keep the rice in the refrigerator and consume it within three to four days.
  4. Reheat the rice thoroughly to an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) before consuming.
  5. Avoid reheating the same portion of rice multiple times.

These guidelines, backed by scientific evidence and expert advice, provide a clear approach to the safety of day-old rice. By following proper food safety measures, such as prompt refrigeration and thorough reheating, day-old rice can be consumed without significant risk.

It is essential to prioritize food safety in all aspects of our daily lives. Practicing good hygiene, following recommended guidelines, and using common sense are crucial to prevent foodborne illnesses. With proper handling and preparation, day-old rice can be enjoyed safely, ensuring both delicious meals and peace of mind for all rice enthusiasts.

Read More: What Really Happens When A House Fly Lands On Your Food


  1. Tiktok. drdedeck
  2. Instagram. foodsciencebabe
  3. Bacillus Cereus.” NCBI. Rachel H. McDowell; Evan M. Sands; Harvey Friedman. January 23, 2023.
  4. BAM Chapter 14: Bacillus cereus.” FDA. Sandra M. Tallent, Ann Knolhoff, E. Jeffery Rhodehamel (ret.), Stanley M. Harmon (ret.), and Reginald W. Bennett (ret.) October 2020.