Two hours is the “general rule” for the maximum amount of time food should be left out of the refrigerator before requiring quick cooling to less-than 40 degrees. All foods that are perishable should never be left in the danger zone (41-139 degrees – often known as the 40-140 rule) for long. The maximum time for foods left in 90 + degrees is even shorter, at one hour. No food left out for more than 4 hours should be consumed.
This applies to rice and pasta especially, which often have the bacteria bacillus cereus, also known as B.Cereus. The spores of the B.Cereus can survive initial cooking, adn then during the moderate temperature period, grow quickly. These bacteria can rapidly multiply and, in severe cases, lead to liver necrosis and even death. According to Dr. Joe (Credit: tiktok/@drjoe_md/):
“This is a condition in which you can have bacterial overgrowth if pasta or rice is left at room temperature for too long. In med school, we’re taught the phrase, ‘reheat rice, be serious’, to remember which bacteria causes this condition.”
According to the Cleveland Clinic, “ Intestinal Bacillus cereus infections are very common. There are an estimated 63,400 instances of B. cereus outbreaks each year in the U.S.”
According to Dr. Joe, one young man, a 20 year old, recently died after eating rice he had left out for “several days.”
Be safe and keep all foods out of the danger zone; remember the 40-140 rule; and never keep leftovers for more than 48 – 72 hours, even if refrigerated.