Food & Drink Health & Wellness

The Surprising Item You Should Skip at the Buffet to Avoid Getting Sick

It’s present on nearly every buffet, piled in fluffy mounds. It’s the bland food you’re told to eat when you have an upset stomach. But it can be really dangerous if not kept at the correct temperature. Yes, it may be surprising, but rice can make you sick.

Uncooked rice can contain a bacteria called Bacillus cereus, which can sometimes survive the cooking process. According to, if rice is not kept at 140 degrees when it is left out for two hours or longer, any remaining bacteria can multiply and make you sick if you eat that rice.

Symptoms will set in quickly (anywhere from 30 minutes to 15 hours after eating) and can cause vomiting and diarrhea. You’ll be sick for about 24 hours if you fall victim to Bacillus cereus.

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Bad Buffet Warning Signs

I asked Janilyn Hutchings, a Certified Professional in Food Safety, what signs to watch for at a buffet to make sure the food you’re eating is safe. Hutchings advises to look for these three red flags:

  1. Food that’s supposed to be hot isn’t hot.
  2. Food that’s supposed to be cold is thawing or melting.
  3. Buffet workers put new food on top of old food instead of replacing an entire container of old food with a new container of fresh food.

Which Foods Should You Avoid at Buffets

Rice falls into the category of Time or Temperature Control for Safety Foods (TCS). According to Hutchings, these are foods that have high carbohydrate and protein levels, are neutral or slightly acidic, and contain moisture. Other foods in this category that you’re likely to find on the buffet include sliced melons, cut greens, and meat.


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Caroline Morse Teel is a Senior Editor at SmarterTravel. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline for travel inspiration.   

By Caroline Morse Teel

Unfortunately for her bank account, Principal Editor Caroline Morse Teel is powerless to resist a good flight deal. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline.

Caroline joined Boston-based SmarterTravel in 2011 after living in Ireland, London, and Manhattan. She's traveled to all seven continents, jumped out of planes, and bungeed off bridges in the pursuit of a good story. She loves exploring off-the-beaten path destinations, anything outdoorsy, and all things adventure.

Her stories have also appeared online at USA Today, Business Insider, Huffington Post, Yahoo,, TripAdvisor, Buzzfeed, Jetsetter, Oyster, Airfarewatchdog, and others.

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