October 7, 2020

Baked Potatoes and Cooked Rice: Why Are They Risky?

Did you know that baked potatoes and cooked rice are potentially risky foods? Those foods seem so innocuous, but they both can cause serious illness if not refrigerated promptly and reheated properly before eating. Both of these foods are called TCS, which stands for time/temperature control for safety.

Baked Potatoes and Cooked Rice: Why Are They Risky?

For baked potatoes, the risk is botulism, but only if the potato is cooked and cooled while completely wrapped in aluminum foil. The foil can create a low oxygen environment where the pathogen can grow and produce the toxin. Potatoes are a low acid food, which puts them in the high risk category for botulism poisoning. In fact, a botulism outbreak linked to home canned potato salad served at a church picnic in 2015 sickened 21 people. One woman died.

When you cook a baked potato in foil, which keeps the skin soft and makes the potato  more moist, and leave it in the foil at room temperature for hours, Clostridium botulinum spores can start producing botulinum toxin. The danger zone is between 41 and 139°F. The baked potato should be taken out of the foil and put on a plate. Put the potato into the fridge as soon as possible if you aren’t eating it immediately.

Don’t let the baked potato sit out of refrigeration if it isn’t wrapped in foil either; other bacteria in your home could contaminate it. So these are the steps: Bake the potato. Immediately remove the foil if it was cooked in that item. Get the potatoes that will not be served into the fridge. Let them cool completely, then put the potatoes on a place and wrap the plate with foil or plastic wrap.

Cooked rice is often associated with something called Fried Rice Syndrome. This is most often caused by a pathogen called Bacillus cereus.

Fried rice is made of cooked and cooled rice. It can contain the spores of that pathogen that can survive cooking. Then, if the cooked rice is left standing at room temperature, the Bacillus cereus spores produce bacteria, which then produce the toxins that make people sick. the longer the cooked rice stands at room temperature, the most likely it is that it will become contaminated with enough bacteria to make someone sick.

If you plan on having leftover rice, put it into a shallow container so it cools quickly, then refrigerate it promptly. Keep the rice in the fridge for only one day, no longer, until you reheat it. And reheat the rice to 165°F. Never reheat rice more than once.

Now that you know that baked potatoes and cooked rice can be risky foods, you can protect yourself and your family.

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