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‘Fried rice syndrome’ is going viral after a 20-year-old student died. What is it?

"The term 'fried rice syndrome' originated from the first reported case of B. cereus contamination in a Chinese restaurant's fried rice dish." – Microbial Pathogenesis, Volume 185, December 2023, ScienceDirect.com

TODAY – Recently, this type of food poisoning with an ironically delicious-sounding name has entered the spotlight after a due to fried rice syndrome resurfaced on social media.

The condition started gaining traction on TikTok after user @jpall20 posted a now-viral video highlighting the story of a young man who died after eating five-day-old, unrefrigerated, leftover pasta.

“For all the students and meal preppers out there, do not make your food, put it in a Tupperware, and then leave it on your counter for a week,” the user warned.

The death was originally published as a case report in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology in 2011.

In the report, researchers describe a 20-year-old student in Belgium who died suddenly in 2008 after eating leftover spaghetti with tomato sauce, which he had cooked five days prior and left on the kitchen counter at room temperature instead of storing it in the refrigerator.

“Illness usually occurs when contaminated food is improperly cooled and left to sit at room temperature for long periods of time, allowing the bacteria and its spores to multiply to unsafe levels.”

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Shortly after reheating and eating the pasta, he became ill with severe vomiting and gastrointestinal symptoms. The next morning, the otherwise healthy young man was found dead.

An autopsy revealed he had acute liver failure, and testing revealed large amounts of a bacteria called Bacillus cereus in the pasta.

While the exact cause of death could not be determined because the autopsy was delayed, evidence pointed to Bacillus cereus as the most likely cause, the case report authors wrote.

Eating pasta that’s been sitting on the counter for five days may sound unappetizing to most people, but infections with Bacillus cereus — also referred to as “fried rice syndrome” — are not uncommon.

A B. cereus infection can also develop after eating food that’s sat at room temperature for far shorter periods of time, even just hours …

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