Is rice OK to eat if left out all night?

I made plain rice in my rice cooker yesterday, I had some, left for work, and then forgot about it until this morning. It's been in the rice cooker since last evening. If I reheat it, will it be alright to eat?

  • Posted by: elisa
  • July 2, 2011


Kalj March 17, 2022
Copied and pasted from You can get food poisoning from rice if you don't store it in the fridge soon enough after cooking.

What makes you sick is Bacillus cereus, says CSIRO food microbiologist Cathy Moir.

Bacillus cereus under the microscope.(Flickr: Hanna Sörensson)

These bacteria produce toxins that will give you a (usually) mild vomiting illness shortly after you eat the contaminated food (sometimes it only takes 30 minutes to get sick).

Bacillus cereus is commonly found in soil and sometimes in plant foods that are grown close to the ground, such as rice, legumes, cereals, spices, etc.

If foods are cooked and handled correctly Bacillus cereus isn't a problem.

The trouble is that in dry conditions — such as those found in a rice packet or spice container — Bacillus cereus remains present as spores.

Cooking not enough to kill spores or toxins

The spores stay dormant until you add water then presto, they germinate and grow.

Unfortunately, the cooking process doesn't kill the heat-resistant spores or the toxin the bacteria produces.

Cooking with rice

When it comes to cooking rice, there are plenty of decisions to be made.

Read more

Once the rice is cooked, the Bacillus cereus bacteria grow and thrive in the moist, warm environment, especially when other bacteria that may have been present initially have been killed by cooking.

So if you're not going to eat rice straight after you've cooked it, you need to store it in the fridge — preferably within an hour or so, but definitely within four hours.

Refrigeration won't kill the bacteria but it will slow down their growth.

For this reason, any uneaten leftover rice should be thrown out after five days in the fridge.

Any longer and you risk having enough of the food poisoning bacteria present to make you sick.

No more dodgy fried rice

Ms Moir says this type of food poisoning is less frequent now than it was in the 1970s, when fried rice was a common culprit.

What happens to your body when food poisoning takes hold?

A study sheds some new light on this, and could lead to better treatment for severe symptoms.

Read more

"Restaurants would cook steamed rice one day, then leave the rice out overnight to cook as fried rice the next day," she explains.

"So it had been sitting around for a day and the Bacillus spores had germinated, grown, and produced the toxins.

"When the fried rice was cooked, the toxin wasn't destroyed; then the customer consumed the rice and was sick, so there were plenty of outbreaks.

"With the health authorities identifying the cause and educating the restaurateurs, the incidence of this type of food poisoning quickly decreased."

The best way to avoid food poisoning from Bacillus cereus and other, often nastier, bacteria is to always cook and store food safely.

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Cooking rice for later

If you are cooking rice that is not going to be eaten straight away, Ms Moir suggests waiting until the steam stops rising, then cover the rice and put it in the fridge.

Kalj March 17, 2022
MaceyIsHappy November 14, 2019
Here in the Philippines, we call it "Bahaw" lol and we love bahaw. So far no one died because they ate it for dinner.
Donna November 14, 2019
And no one probably will die from it if it is only for one night. However, it can be deadly if left out for more than a few days. I know personally of young children getting very ill from eating rice left out for three or four days. Also there is this:
funny October 5, 2019
I see all the fear mongering coming from non Asians up in here. We don’t think about these kinds of things lol. Never got sick from rice and don’t know anyone who has. Probably have eaten left out rice more than I know about. Asians have been eating rice thousands of years, way before refrigerators were even invented. Like the other poster said, get a grip and use common sense people.
Rebelorisha May 6, 2021
I agree with u 100. But Boricuas (Puerto Ricans)as well do the same. Nobody has die from it.
corwood September 19, 2023
You are woefully uneducated and not informed on this topic at all. Loads of people eat rice in America and don't get sick either. No one is saying ALL rice will cause this, but many don't want to risk it.
And so you are better informed, this type of food poisoning happens all the time in Asia too. Warnings are listed on multiple county's health agency websites. Just because you aren't paying attention doesn't mean something doesn't exist and it CERTAINLY doesn't mean people are saying it to be "racist against asians". Educate yourself. People don't spend their lives studying science to make jokes.
Imelda P. August 21, 2019
I left my rice in the rice cooker for three days and always hot. I opened the tuna century in can and put grounded moringga on it and it tasted so delicious !!! I did not get sick at all! My Korean friend does it like that! Leaving the rice in the rice cooker and always hot anytime she wanted to eat. So next time just cook enough so you do not have left over.
JEZ October 21, 2018
Came across this site when looking for something else and want to add my two cents. I took a Safe Food Handling Certificate course offered by the government for those working in the field. We were taught that rice is one of THE most dangerous foods in terms of bacterial growth and were told of the sad case of a mother and child who perished after eating rice left out overnight. Instead of asking each other....I suggest you go to the research. There is lots. e.g.
corwood September 19, 2023
And that's correct. Rice borne food poisoning is warned about by half the world's health agencies.
Rod T. September 17, 2018
When in doubt throw it out, that was what my mom always taught us. We use parboiled rice for the lower sugar, Rice should be bought in 25 or 50 lb sacks so it's more affordable and around when confronted with a natural disaster! Thus making it fresh would be best practices.
MSHolistic September 12, 2017
Noone is recommending anyone to do anything. The person asking is looking for information and has most likely already made up their mind since the thread is rather old. It is pretty obvious that rice can give food poisoning but when and how this happens seems to be unclear. The guidelines are rather just to guide people but there are variables which are not taken into consideration such as climate, culture, food preparation methods and environment in which it is cooked.

We have eaten with Columbians but usually they do not give leftovers to their guests days after, usually we eat when it's freshly cooked. I am talking specifically about them eating the leftover rice among themselves.

For many people who live with rice as part of their main diet, eating leftover cooked rice is quite common. For those not acclimatised to it, or have existing digestive issues or food intolerances, it makes no sense to risk it.

The decision is up to the 'informed' person asking the question.
We have never at one point advised on consuming leftover cooked rice.
We have never at one point claimed that leftover rice did not contain harmful bacteria.
We have never at one point claimed that is it healthy to eat.
We are supplying real cases from thousands of years of observed cultures to help the user understand why for some people, they are affected and why others are not.
Although we are trained holistic doctors, we do not advise taking action from advice on forums, but to consult with a professional.
MSHolistic September 2, 2017
Not sure if this will help others finding this post.

The answer depends on your cultural background and stomach.
As an Asian, my family and I have been cooking plain rice, leaving it out to cool overnight (covered) and then reheat it the next day (usually stir fried or steamed again). We live in a cooler climate, usually temperatures overnight don't reach more than 20'c and can be around 15'c in the evening.
It is true that bacteria can grow on rice at room temperature (whatever that temperature may be) but we've may also developed resistance to this bacteria over the years. We experience no ill health.
We have cooked meals for western friends (they willingly accept) and they experience no problems either. My Columbian friends do this regularly, in fact they leave it out for more than 1 night and always reheat after 2 days sometimes. They seem okay!
We are not sure why we are not affected but we've also not known anyone to get sick from our food who do not have this in their diet. It could be that some people live in quite clinically clean environments and are not able to fight off the bacteria before it grows into a problem.

My holistic team believe that if you are taking good probiotics (pill form or food) and keeping your immune function healthy, you should not suffer from any noticeable symptoms. But if you're prone to stomach issues or digestive disorders, we'd not recommend it.

We've also noticed that clients who live in the city, tend to suffer from bacteria related illnesses more than those in rural areas. This might have something to do with the exposure to pollution, toxins, 'dirt' and perhaps the quality of produce they eat. Most of our friends from all over the world live relatively healthy lives in the city and are not affected by rice food poisoning and we've yet to hear cases at our clinic.

However, we have to consider many factors before recommending any one to try potentially harmful food. It is ultimately up to you, how you feel about your health, your stomach and whether you've had an prior exposure to similar 'left-out' grains or starches in the past. How did you react then? Do you have food intolerances? Are you usually allergic to things? Do you have problems with your bowels? If you're not in top condition, don't take risks that could worsen your already weakened immune system to fighting off this bacteria, otherwise you will feel much worse.
caninechef September 5, 2017
hmmm... since there appears to be quite a range of potential pathogenic spores in rice ( quick Google search) including rather nasty clostridium varieties I doubt if you can make a generic statement that if your system is used to it is OK. In a fairly isolated cuisine that probably bears weight but I would presume that acclimation within an Asian culture might mean zip if you were dining with Columbian friends, assuming somewhat stable sourcing for the rice used by various cultures. As you say, people do it all the time, whether it is wise to advise someone to go ahead is quite a different thing.
Ashley C. October 4, 2016
No don't eat it. If you simply google this, its all over the place, Food regulations say no more than 2 hours out without refrigeration. They request 1 hour is best. Only reheat it 1 time. Bacteria is not the rice, but what is on the rice. Read these articles attached. Restaurants have and outbreaks of sickness from 1 day old rice. Please look up actual food guides, before poisoning yourself, and your family.
Muanfun S. October 5, 2016
So, a microwave's waves cannot kill all harmful bacteria, right?
Mark K. May 7, 2015
Terrible news!!! I just heard from Elisa's family, she tossed out the rice and lived..that is, until she threw herself off of the balcony after reading all these answers....
Corinne C. October 2, 2015
cook4you November 26, 2014
No!!!! Food bacteria grows fast in rice!
creamtea December 11, 2013
I meant to type "realize", not "-ed".
lloreen December 11, 2013
Sorry, this thread popped up to the top of Hotline. I didn't know it was 2 years old. If your rice has been sitting out for 2 years, don't eat it ;)
Jordan B. August 12, 2014
nutcakes December 11, 2013
This thread is over 2 yrs old, I think she has her answers by now.
creamtea December 11, 2013
Why do old threads pop up to the top of the hotline? I'm guessing that when things are too quiet, the hotline gods churn up some old cosmic matter to generate interest. I notice it often happens. Then users again get highly exercised by something that they don't realized was resolved aeons ago.
trampledbygeese May 24, 2014
I think they pop up when someone is asking a question and the system comes up with the same question already asked... maybe, or maybe it's aliens. But kind of glad it did pop up again. Not enough people know about the dangers of rice.
funny October 5, 2019
The ‘dangers of rice’ lmao. Its real for white folk. Asians, not so much.
lloreen December 11, 2013
I am sure there is a minuscule chance of bacteria and food poisoning, but if leaving rice out overnight was deadly, most of the population of Asia would be decimated. Every Japanese family I know leaves rice in the cooker all day. Seriously, people, get a grip.
trampledbygeese May 7, 2015
Traditional cultures often have food pairings that slow or prevent unwanted bacterial growth. For example, in Korea, rice is often eaten with Kimchi, in Japan, ume boshi are paired with rice, especially when rice is to be stored at room temperature for more than an hour. Traditional diets are rife with food pairings that taste good and keep people health.

Regarding rice cookers, my Japanese rice cooker states that for health reasons, cooked rice is not to be eaten more than 12 hours after it is cooked, unless it is refrigerated within the first two hours of being cooked. It looks like Japan has some experience with the potential danger of mishandeling cooked rice.

In our affluent part of the world, what we choose to eat is an individual decision. With something as important as food, it's important to make it an INFORMED decision. I think this thread covered a lot of the different sides and opinions regarding the topic of cooked rice storage. Now it's up to each individual reader to choose how they wish to store their cooked rice.

Just a clarification, decimated means reduced by one tenth - perhaps you meant devastated? It's difficult because we cannot edit our posts on this form, so I'll assume you meant that they would be in a really bad way.
Yoyoma February 2, 2024
past tense: decimated; past participle: decimated
kill, destroy, or remove a large proportion of.
"the inhabitants of the country had been decimated"
chefM December 10, 2013
petitbleu October 2, 2013
Any moist, dense food is a prime candidate for bacterial growth. I have eaten rice that was left out all night, and I'm still here to tell the tale, but from an objective standpoint you should throw it away. It's cheap and quick to make and not worth the risk.
Donna October 2, 2013
I wish it were safe but it is not. Contrary to what one person posted, cooked pasta and rice are perishable foods. Staphylococcus aureus (staph), can form a heat-resistant toxin that cooking can't destroy and one of the most common sources of staph bacteria is the human body. Even healthy people carry staph.
innoabrd July 3, 2011
I'm not always totally compulsive about food safety, but as someone else said...rice is cheap. Cured pork products might be worth the risks. Raw milk cheese, if you're not pregnant, sure. But plain rice? Nah...toss it.
amysarah July 3, 2011
As with all food, it partly depends on the temp in the room. (To serve something room temp, taking it out of the fridge an hour or two before eating usually suffices) But with rice, I'd err on the side of caution and toss it.

Starchy food is a common medium for bacteria. There's apparently even something called 'Fried Rice Syndrome' associated with cooked rice left out too long at room temp - even frying it at hi-temps doesn't kill the spores that have formed:

Starchy foods, such as rice or potatoes, are commonly associated with B. cereus emetic (vomiting) toxin outbreaks. Due to its preparation process, one of the most common food vehicles for transmission of emetic B. cereus illness is fried rice, and there have been several reported outbreaks. The spores of B. cereus are activated in the initial preparation of the rice, which if stored at abusive temperatures (approximately 59 to 104°F or 15 to 40°C) for an extended time, will outgrow and produce a toxin that is heat stable and will not be inactivated during subsequent cooking.
ellenl July 2, 2011
If you had a party would the rice remain out the same amount of time? Does it smell and feel OK? It may just be me, but I don't get so worked up about these things, though I don't want to be foolish either. I also don't enjoy cold food--I like it room temp. Other than a heat wave, I often leave food out, covered, on purpose. I made a summer vegetable torta Thurs. eve. On Friday eve. I took out of the refrigerator and left it out. It will be dinner tonight--Sat. Don't know if this helps at all.
boulangere July 2, 2011
I have to weigh in with nutcakes and plevee: NO! Rice is cheap. Throw it out.
nutcakes July 2, 2011
Although many people do leave rice in the cooker overnight, (I've done it,in cool weather andI had a Korean foreign exchange student who would do that), you should be aware of a bacteria named Bacillus Cereus that grows rapidly on rice and causes severe food poinioning. I would not feed to to children, elderley or large groups.

And it isn't helped by cooking it again, as in fried rice, because it can survive high temperatures. So, strictly speaking it is not safe, if you eat it you are taking some level of risk by not properly refigerating it.
Panfusine July 2, 2011
it should be perfectly fine (assuming that it was kept covered with a lid). the rice would probably be a touch drier freshly made rice, & maybe slightly clumped up in the shape of the rice cooker pan. you can always sprinkle some water, cover & microwave it before eating. If you find even the slightest bit of squelchiness compared to fresh cooked rice, toss it out.
Panfusine September 3, 2017
Thank you Steven Looksup for bringing up the term 'Pazhaya soru' (it literally translates as old rice. This is a time honored tradition in SOuth India. The leftover rice would be completely immersed in water and left covered. soapstone containers, called 'Kal chatties' were used in my maternal grandmother's place. The next morning, the water would be drained out and the rice would be mixed with yogurt, Buttermilk and sea salt and often eaten as breakfast by the kids with a piece of salted preserved lime as an accompaniment.) It was always mixed with yogurt or buttermilk, never any other gravies EVER.

Voted the Best Reply!

plevee July 2, 2011
NO! Bacterial spores are not uncommon in uncooked rice and are not destroyed by cooking. Left at room temperature they can produce toxins that cause food poisoning and ( very rarely) death.
Refrigerate rice as soon as possible after cooking.
joe S. May 18, 2014
Bacteria do not make spores, your entire answer is VOID and irrelevant.
Luxelady May 23, 2014
"Joe Schmoe" is wrong. Some species of bacteria do indeed make spores, Clostridium and Bacillus being two of the more common spore forming species. Bacillus cereus is the one that more commonly causes food poisoning associated with poorly stored rice. The irony of calling someone else's answer "VOID and irrelevant" because you don't know that simple fact.
Justina19 April 7, 2022
Right they are called endosperm’s.. they form while dormant.. so the bacteria in rice when the water is added wakes them up and the spores now become the bacteria happily multiplying in water . Or the nice nourishing rice after it’s cooked.
KLL5 July 2, 2011
Yes!! Unless of course it had egg/milk/meat or some perishable in it. But otherwise it should be totally fine. To test take a wiff... if it doesn't smell bad it is all right.
trampledbygeese May 24, 2014
NO! Cooked rice is more deadly than raw chicken - at least according to the BBC. There is something nasty for us in there that is NOT killed by reheating. "But rice is also a common cause (of food poisoning). It can contain Bacillus cereus, which is resistant to heat. "It's one that a lot of people don't know about, but you do have to be very careful with rice," says Martin. "It's not that rice itself is dangerous but after it's been cooked there are spores of bacteria that can germinate.""
trampledbygeese May 24, 2014
correction to my last post. Should read: Cooked rice CAN BE more deadly than raw chicken. Clarification, the danger comes from the lack of education the public receives on the subject.
Steven L. January 31, 2017
I have got the posting, wonder if that is true?

*Pazhaya Soru*
Best rated Breakfast

American Nutrition Association says that the previous day's soaked rice is the best for breakfast, used to be the staple diet in Kerala and Tamilnadu, not so long ago...
Rice (Tanjana Facts)
Traditionally rice is cooked in the afternoon and excess water is drained. After the rice cools down to room temperature, it is soaked fully in water and stored in an earthen clay pot. This covered pot with soaked rice is left overnight at regular room temperature. The rice would ferment by the next morning and is eaten for breakfast. Traditionally, it is eaten with a side dish, raw onion or green chili. Some prefer to drain excess water and eat it with yogurt and a slight sprinkle of salt.
The lactic acid bacteria break down the anti-nutritional factors in rice resulting in an improved bioavailability of micro-nutrients and minerals such as iron, potassium and calcium by several thousand percentage points. For example, after 12 hours of fermentation of 100 grams of rice, the availability of iron changed from 3.4 mg to 73.91mg (an increase of 2073%).
In the agrarian communities of South East Asia, fermented rice played a big role in the lives of people. It gave the energy, the nutrition and the cooling effect that they needed for a full day of manual labor. Unfortunately, people moving up the food chain (or wealth chain, rather) looked down on fermented rice as the pauper’s food and ignored the great nutritional value it provides.
Food scientists who researched on the food practices among various regions in the world and concluded that the South Asia’s tradition of consuming the previous day's cooked rice soaked in plain water overnight, in the morning next day, as break-fast, is the best. It has the rare B6 B12 vitamins which are not otherwise easily available in other food supplements. This rice generates and harbors trillions of beneficial bacteria that help digestion and has many disease fighting and immunity developing agents. The bacteria that grow in the intestines due to this rice safeguard the internal organs and keep them fit and ready. Consuming this rice helps quicker digestion and wards off ageing, bone related ailments and muscular pains. Brown rice is the best for this as its nutrients are retained intact.
American Nutrition Association has listed the following benefits if you stick to the practice of consuming such soaked rice.
• Consuming this rice as breakfast keeps the body light and also .
• Beneficial bacteria get produced in abundance for the body.
• Stomach ailments disappear when this is consumed in the morning as excessive and harmful heat retained in the body is neutralized.
• As this food is very fibrous, it removes constipation and also dullness in the body.
• Blood pressure is normalized and hypertension subsides appreciably.
• Body feels less tired due to this food as a result of which one feels fresh throughout the day.
• This removes allergy induced problems and also skin-related ailments.
• It removes all types of ulcers in the body.
• Fresh infections are kept at bay due to consuming this rice.
• It helps in maintaining youthful and radiant look.
Consuming this takes away your body’s craving for tea or coffee. This is the richest source of vitamin B12 for vegans. So, do not throw away that extra rice you had cooked. It could be the healthiest breakfast you will ever have.
funny October 5, 2019
Bingo. People on here are going overboard with how deadly rice can be when Asians have been eating rice way before refrigerators were even invented. Those who are getting sick (rare cases) probably left out the rice for a few days in a warmer climate and didn’t exercise common sense. I doubt they were asian either. Our mothers and grandmothers and ancestors passed on how to cook and store rice that we don’t even think about it seriously (or worry for that matter). ITS RICE
Justina19 April 7, 2022
It’s funny you said that, as most people think they got bad chicken and most likely the rice
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