The next time you go to pack last night’s Thai curry – with rice – for leftovers at work, think again.
Every year, one in six Australians will experience food poisoning.
And according to Rachelle Williams, Chair of the Food Safety Information Council, the two most common foods responsible for food poisoning are cold rice and pasta.
"In terms of food safety, uncooked pasta and rice are perfectly safe because they are dry, and bacteria don't like to grow in dry foods," Williams told Huffpost.
"Once you cook them in water, the rice and pasta expand (because they're soaking up the water),” she explains.
“This is an issue because bacteria like to grow in foods that are moist. The moment you add water to the rice and pasta, they suddenly become potentially hazardous foods. So, bacteria can grow in cooked rice and pasta if those foods aren't properly handled."
According to CSIRO good microbiologist Cathy Moir, Bacillus cereus is the bacteria that makes you sick.
And if your rice or pasta is contaminated, you will get a mild vomiting illness shortly after you eat – sometimes within 30 minutes.
The key to preventing bacterial growth in cooked rice and pasta is to store them in the fridge – within four hours of cooking – below five degrees celcius.
Refrigeration won't kill the bacteria but it will slow down its growth.
If you haven’t eaten the rice after three days in the fridge, Moir suggests that you throw it out.