Could eating reheated starchy foods be fatal? | Lifestyle

Recently, an account on the TikTok app posted a video of a death that occurred 15 years ago, triggering a wave of rumors. A university student in Brussels died after eating a plate of pasta which he left on the table for five days before being reheated and eaten.

The video raised concerns among social media users about the dangers of a disease known as “fried rice syndrome,” which has historically been associated with cooking white rice that is not cooled “in order to later prepare fried rice dishes in restaurants.” Dr. told Cynthia Sears, professor at Johns Hopkins University and expert on foodborne illness.

It’s a syndrome that refers to “food poisoning caused by eating leftover cooked food that has been improperly stored after reheating, especially starches such as rice and pasta.” That requires going back to the Brussels student’s story to find out the exact cause of his death and to find out what food safety experts say about how long food can be left out before it can be eaten again and how safe it is to eat leftovers. Food left outside the refrigerator.

fried rice syndrome
‘Fried rice syndrome’ linked to rice used in restaurant fried rice (Pixabay)

The late Brussels student…what’s his story?

In 2011, the journal Microbiology published a report in which researchers described the case of a 20-year-old Belgian student who “died suddenly in 2008 after eating leftover spaghetti with tomato sauce that he had cooked five days earlier.” “Then leave it at room temperature. “Who put it in the refrigerator?”

It emerged from the details that shortly after reheating the pasta and eating it, the student, who was in good health, developed severe vomiting and digestive disturbances.

He was found dead the next morning, with an autopsy showing he suffered from acute liver failure and analysis showing the presence of large amounts of Bacillus cereus bacteria in the pasta, which researchers deemed “the most likely cause of death”. “

Schaffner, a professor of food science at Rutgers University, told the Huffington Post: “Although the death of the Brussels student has been confirmed to be related to Bacillus cereus, this is very shocking.” Death from food poisoning is rare. “

fried rice syndrome
Bacillus cereus is found everywhere in nature but becomes active once starchy foods are cooked (Bixaby)

Bacteria that cause poisoning…how do we protect ourselves from them?

Dr. Ellen Shoemaker, a food safety expert at North Carolina State University, explained to The Huffington Post; “Bacillus cereus can be found everywhere in nature, including in starchy foods like rice or pasta, but they are most commonly associated with cooked rice. “As long as it is inactive, it does not cause illness, but once starchy foods are cooked, it becomes active and continues to produce toxins while the food is left at room temperature.”

So, explains Dr. Robert Gravani, a professor of food science at Cornell University, “Illness often occurs when food is improperly refrigerated or left at room temperature for an extended period of time, allowing bacteria to multiply to unsafe levels.” To avoid this, , Shoemaker recommends “putting food in the refrigerator and letting it sit for at least 4 hours.”

Because “food can become a breeding ground for bacteria unless it is cooled immediately in the refrigerator.” According to the USDA, Schaffner recommends “not leaving cooked food at room temperature for more than two hours.”

Is cooling hot foods… bad for them?

The doctor explained. “Because toxins form when food is cooked in what we call the danger temperature zone (40 to 60 degrees Celsius (40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit)), it must be cooled quickly,” Shoemaker said.

She adds that the quality of cooling depends on the amount of hot food we put in the refrigerator. “The larger the container you use, the longer it will take for the food in the middle of the container to cool.”

To avoid this, Shoemaker recommends portioning large amounts of hot food into shallow containers “to cool it faster while keeping the refrigerator temperature below 5 degrees Celsius (41 degrees Fahrenheit).”

Symptoms of fried rice syndrome

Shoemaker tells us that the symptoms of “fried rice syndrome” are similar to other types of food poisoning; such as vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, dehydration, abdominal pain, etc.

But they do not appear in the form of pathological reactions until 30 minutes to 5 hours after eating contaminated food. The resulting diarrhea may begin 8 to 16 hours after eating.

fried rice syndrome
People with fried rice syndrome poisoning start to feel better within hours (Bixaby)

The Importance of Hydration to Overcome Symptoms

Although there are no specific medication recommendations for this syndrome, experts say the most important way to combat it is to “stay hydrated by drinking lots of water and fluids.”

In severe cases, “when vomiting and diarrhea last for several hours,” an immediate trip to the emergency room is recommended to help overcome dehydration.

Shoemaker also warned that antibiotics will not help relieve the symptoms of B. cereus poisoning.

Will it cause death?

Dr Grafani said: “Bacillus cereus is a very common organism in the environment, occurring naturally in soil and vegetation and in a range of plant and animal foods. Infections with it are common in many countries but are usually mild ( Approximately 63,400 people develop this condition each year in the United States alone, according to the Cleveland Clinic; however, only in severe cases can it lead to acute liver failure and death.

Professor Schaffner also noted that “according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these cases of food poisoning often go unreported and the problem is often resolved within a day or two of symptoms as patients begin to…” Feeling better within a few hours. “

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