A number of outbreaks of food poisoning attributed to Bacillus cereus have been reported recently and all have been associated with cooked rice usually from Chinese restaurants and ‘take-away’ shops.
Tests were made to assess the heat resistance of B. cereus spores in aqueous suspension, the growth of the organism in boiled rice stored at temperatures in the range 4–55° C., and the effect of cooking and storage on the growth of the organism in boiled and fried rice. The spores of B. cereus survived cooking and were capable of germination and outgrowth. The optimum temperature for growth in boiled rice was between 30° and 37° C. and growth also occurred during storage at 15° and 43° C.
To prevent further outbreaks it is suggested that rice should be boiled in smaller quantities on several occasions during the day, thereby reducing the storage time before frying. After boiling the rice should either be kept hot (> 63° C.) or cooled quickly and transferred to a refrigerator within 2 hr. of cooking. Boiled or fried rice must not be stored under warm conditions especially in the range 15–50° C.