Bacillus cereus (buh-SILL-us SEE-ree-us) is a serious disease. Ok sorry, that’s a bad joke. Actually it’s not funny to the people who are sick, but B. cereus is actually very common. It’s even possible you may have had this illness and not known it, because the symptoms might not be serious enough for you to call someone! There are two types of Bacillus. The first type is diarrheal, and the second is called emetic, which means vomiting. Fun, right?
Anyone can get B. cereus, either kind. Most people don’t report it because the illness is usually fairly mild, and we really don’t know exactly how many cases there are annually. In the diarrheal type of B. cereus, the bacteria are eaten, then make a toxin (like poison) once they have entered the small intestine. What follows are diarrhea, cramps and sometimes nausea. Symptoms begin within 6-15 hours and clear up within about a day. In the emetic type, the bacteria make the toxin in the food itself. The toxin then causes the person to experience nausea and vomiting within 30 minutes to 6 hours. This illness lasts about a day also. The illness almost always goes away by itself, which is why most people recover and think it’s not a big deal. Many types of food have been implicated in the diarrheal-type of poisoning – from meat to milk to vegetables. The vomiting type of B. cereus is often found to occur in starchy foods, such as rice, pasta and potatoes.
Cooking can kill the bacteria, but B. cereus can form spores, which aren’t killed easily by high heat. Proper refrigeration, good hand washing, and keeping raw and cooked foods separate are your best defenses. * See more info about spores here: http://foodsleuthonline.com/blogwe-all-eat/help-im-a-germaphobe/