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Dec 24, 2012 02:59 PM

Question about cooking to kill bacteria

So, I know if you cook food hot enough it'll kill harmful bacteria, right? But as an example, I buy bulk foods, i.e., rice, and I worry who's touched it before me, or if they've washed their hands, and I start to wonder what kinds of bacteria might be growing on foods that I buy bulk, since it's just open for everyone to touch. So, I come home and cook the rice, would that kill any bacteria that would have been transmitted from someones hand onto the rice, like E. Coli or Salmonella?

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  1. Just for clarification, when we buy bulk grains etc., they are usually in enclosed plastic bins from which they either pour out or are scooped out. I haven't seen bulk foods much that are completely exposed to being touched, though I've seen some Mexican peppers like that, and olive bar foods. Come to think of it, we have one bulk store where the employees scoop everything out with scoops, but no one still really touches anything. I can't quite imagine what it would look like to have a completely exposed bulk box of rice, for example. So in my case I'm not worried because they're mostly protected, but even if they were open I wouldn't worry much because I wouldn't imagine people actually touching the rice etc. with their bare hands. If I often saw people doing that where I shopped I'd shop elsewhere.

    I was going to say that I vote that rice cooked for the typical half hour or so in boiling temperature water should be in pretty good shape germwise after that. There are no guarantees in life though.

    However, here's an article suggesting that cooking rice doesn't kill something in rice that's even independent of people touching it, so don't leave it sitting out for hours after cooking.

    Google is a very entertaining friend.

    1. There are more factors than food just being touched to contaminate it. Bacteria needs time, temperature and the proper environment to survive. Many, but not all, bacteria do not survive that long outside an appropriate host. They also usually need a source of nourishment, i.e. Protein or sugar.

      The bacteria you're interested in, e. Coli & salmonella, typically need a warmer, moister host in order to multiply. Rice and most bulk bins are not going to support them for any length of time.

      But to answer your question. . .cooking food to an internal temperature of 140* and holding that temperature for at least a minute will generally destroy food borne bacteria.

      1 Reply
      1. re: DiningDiva


        Dry bulk items are not a good place for bacteria to grow, if they were, they would not be stored at room temperature.

      2. Killing bacteria is simple, letting it sit around long enuf to produce toxins, which you can't kill, is another story.

        1. I think you worry too much.

          We should be rejoicing. We all survived the Mayan end of days ...

          1 Reply
          1. re: ipsedixit

            But, but. . .The Mayan *never* thought that the world was ending just the Baktun. They would have been preparing for the transition years ago.