January 27, 2023

How Do You Know If You Have a Bacillus Cereus Infection?

Bacillus cereus infections are very common in the United States. This pathogen causes about 63,000 cases of food poisoning every year in this country. It is responsible for the so-called “fried rice syndrome,” where people get sick after eating reheated rice.

How Do You Know If You Have a Bacillus Cereus Infection?

The problem with fried rice is that when rice is cooled at room temperature, the bacteria present in that product can grow and produce toxins. And those toxins are not destroyed by heat. So when that leftover rice is used to make fried rice, people can get sick.

Rice isn’t the only vehicle for this pathogen, however. It is also associated with dishes containing potatoes, pasta, and cheese. And food poisoning associated with this pathogen is common in catering situations and restaurants.

One of the toxins this pathogen produces causes vomiting, and the other causes diarrhea. The toxins have different incubation periods, so vomiting is usually the first symptom, occurring about six hours after ingestion. Then patients experience diarrhea about nine hours later or 15 hours after ingestion.

Bacillus cereus is also commonly found in dairy, fish, meat, sauces, soups and stews, and vegetables. If those foods are left at room temperature too long, the bacteria can grow quickly. The bacteria forms spores that produce the toxins.

The most common symptoms of this infection include abdominal pain, stomach cramps, watery diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. Most people get better within about 24 hours after contracting this infection. However, people with compromised immune systems and chronic illnesses can have serious complications.

You can prevent this type of food poisoning by following safe cooking and food handling rules. Cool cooked foods quickly. Keep cold food cold, refrigerating it below 41°F. And keep hot food hot, above 140°F. Every time you reheat food, making sure it reaches a temperature of at least 165°F, and check that temperature with a reliable food thermometer.

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