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Is it Safe to Eat Uncooked Rice?

Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on November 08, 2021

Rice is a versatile grain and a staple in diets around the world. It’s inexpensive and can be prepared in a number of delicious ways.

If you’ve heard of the raw food diet, then you’ve probably heard the claims that certain foods deliver the most nutrition in their raw forms. But is rice one of those foods? 

Uncooked Rice and Food Poisoning

‌Eating raw rice can cause food poisoning. One of the most common sources of food poisoning in rice is a bacterium called Bacillus cereus.

Bacillus cereus is very common and found in soil. It makes its way into many different kinds of food that we eat. Every year, more than 60,000 people in the U.S. get sick due to Bacillus cereus

This bacterium is often found in rice and rice-based products. Improperly handled or undercooked rice is a frequent cause of food poisoning.  

‌What happens if you eat raw or undercooked rice that's contaminated? In short, you will get food poisoning.

Symptoms of food poisoning include nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. Severe cases might need medical attention to treat symptoms like dehydration

Bacillus cereus produces heat-resistant spores that can survive cooking temperatures. While cooking will destroy most of the contaminants, surviving bacteria can quickly multiply at room temperature. So, it's important to keep your rice at a high temperature as you serve it. You'll also need to safely cool, store, and reheat your leftover rice in order to avoid food poisoning.

Raw Rice and Digestion

Food poisoning isn’t the only risk that comes with eating uncooked rice. Eating raw rice can also cause digestive issues. 

Raw rice contains a type of protein called lectin. Plant lectins are commonly found in rice and other whole grains. In the wild, lectin protects the plant from potential predators, such as insects and animals. 

Some lectins are more dangerous to you than others, and lectins in rice cannot be digested.

In high amounts, lectins in uncooked rice can damage your digestive tract and cause vomiting and diarrhea. The symptoms you feel after eating lectins are very similar to those you get after you have food poisoning. 

‌Lectins can not only make you sick but also prevent your body from digesting vital nutrients. They're sometimes called “antinutrients” for this reason. 

You can cut down on lectins in rice by rinsing and cooking it thoroughly.

How to Cook Rice Safely

Here are some tips you can use when cooking rice.

Rinse your rice first. Use a sieve or a rice colander. The water might be milky or cloudy at first. Once the water runs clear, your rice is ready to cook.

Cook your rice. Use a rice cooker or your stove top. Stove top rice cooks at a ratio of 1 cup of rice to 1 ½ cups of water.‌ ‌Add your rice to boiling water and allow it to simmer for at least 20 minutes.

Make sure your rice is fully cooked. Water and cooking time can vary based on the type of rice used.

Keep your rice at a safe temperature. Once your rice is cooked, keep it at 140 degrees or higher as you're serving it.

How to Cool and Store Cooked Rice Safely

Next, you can cool and store your cooked rice by following these simple steps. 

Keep your rice out of the "temperature danger zone." At temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit, bacteria can start reproducing. They can spread very quickly.

Cool leftovers right away. As soon as you've finished eating your rice, you’ll need to cool your leftovers. A shallow lidded container in your refrigerator will help the rice reach a temperature below 40 degrees Fahrenheit quickly. 

Don’t keep leftovers for too long. Cooked rice can only safely stay in your refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.

Use your freezer to keep your leftover rice longer. You can freeze your leftover rice for up to 6 months. 

How to Reheat Cooked Rice Safely

Finally, to reheat your cooked rice, remember these steps. 

Reheat leftover rice to a high temperature. In general, you should reheat your rice to a temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Don't reheat rice more than once. Throw away any leftovers you don’t eat after reheating it the first time. 

When in doubt, throw it out. Only reheat rice if you're certain it was prepared and stored correctly. Spoiled rice rarely gives any clues that it will make you sick. Bad rice often smells, looks, and tastes just like regular rice.

It's not safe to eat uncooked rice. For your health, it's important to enjoy rice that is always cooked, cooled, stored, and reheated safely. 

Show Sources

SOURCES:‌

The BMJ: “Do dietary lectins cause disease?”

Emerging Infectious Diseases: “Foodborne Illness Acquired in the United States—Major Pathogens.”

Foods: “Risk of Bacillus cereus in Relation to Rice and Derivatives.”

Food Safety and Inspection Service of the USDA: “"Danger Zone" (40 °F - 140 °F),” “Safe Minimum Internal Temperature Chart,” “Shelf-Stable Food Safety.”

Toxicon: “Antinutritional properties of plant lectins.”

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