Food waste friday and dustbin demon

Filed in Blog by on February 12, 2010 16 Comments
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Our naughty dustbin demon for the week - silica gel!

Our naughty dustbin demon for the week - silica gel!

It’s food waste Friday and I made a silly mistake.

After lunch one day I had an attack of the post lunch lazies. All I could think about was sleeping off my large lunch and getting my head on the pillow as quickly as possible.

So I did.

What this meant, however, was that I left rice out, at room temperature for the entire afternoon.

Now as you know, I’m not shy of giving a two fingered salute to ‘best before’ dates and I’ll happily eat things that Mr Green would wrinkle his nose up at, but I’m not about to take silly risks.

Interestingly, rice is one of the most common causes of food poisoning in restaurants. Thankfully, despite eating large quantities of rice I’ve never fallen foul of this one, but I wasn’t going to try my luck this week.

According to the Food Standards Agency, uncooked rice can contain spores of Bacillus cereus, bacteria that can cause food poisoning. When the rice is cooked, the spores can survive. Then, if the rice is left standing at room temperature, the spores will germinate into bacteria. These bacteria will multiply and may produce toxins (poisons) that cause vomiting or diarrhoea. Reheating the rice won’t get rid of these toxins.

So, the longer cooked rice is left at room temperature, the more likely it is that bacteria, or the toxins they produce, could stop the rice being safe to eat.

It’s best to serve rice when it has just been cooked. If that isn’t possible, cool the rice as quickly as possible (ideally within one hour) and keep it in the fridge for no more than one day until reheating.

As you can see, the entire afternoon with rice at room temperature wasn’t the most favourable of conditions. Thankfully it was only a few tablespoons that had been left, so they went to my feathered friends along with a few cake crumbs and dried fruit. As you might remember from our previous post, birds will eat many food scraps that are often thrown away.

If you want to read more about food poisoning from rice, there is a lively discussion on ABC health called “Will cooked rice give you food poisoning if it’s not store in the ‘fridge?

Our dustbin demon for this week is a pack of silica gel which arrived in a pair of shoes. Fortunately, we have a cunning reuse idea for it. According to CompostWoman, it helps keep seeds in tip top condition,  ready for planting out. But in the past I must admit, I have thrown these pesky packs away, according to the instructions on the pack which say, funnily enough, “Silica Gel – THROW AWAY”

Share your ideas for reusing silica gel in the comments below and we’ll create a post in a weeks time with all your suggestions.

What about you – any food waste or dustbin demons to report?

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (16)

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  1. Cate says:

    I had no idea you were only supposed to store rice in the fridge for a day or so! What does that mean for fried rice, which calls for 1 or 2 day old rice? Hmm.

  2. Poppy says:

    My biggest dustbin demon is my Husband! Try as I might, he still rebels and throws things away that I would rehome in a different way.

    That said, our green monster (wheelie bin), has just celebrated its seventh week without a trip to the kerbside 🙂 😀 I think we’re good for another couple of weeks at least as it has now reached the level at which I can tidily stack the items that need to go in there. 🙂

  3. Brian Williams says:

    According to my schoolboy physics silica gel is made up of anhydrous (water-absorbing) crystals – perfectly safe if not eaten! They can therefore be placed in shallow trays on wndow sills, etc. to absorb moisture/deter mould. Obviously, you need quite a few!

  4. sandy says:

    I put my silica gel in the bottom of my wardrobe, in the llid of an old shoe box.

  5. magdalena says:

    Freeze the rice for re-use. Left out it will grow a really nice culture, like a miniature forest. As for silica gel, I use it in closets or the bottom of stored suitcases. Next time, just try to remember to leave it at the store, so they can re-use it. Hey, why don’t stores take back the little packets and return them to the manufacturer for recycling? Silica gel should last close to forever.

  6. Susi says:

    Hi!
    We use the wee sachets of silica on the window sills to help with condensation in the winter.
    🙂

  7. Alea says:

    I had never heard about food poisoning from rice before. When we assign clean up duties after a meal, one person is put in charge of putting away leftovers, while the others clear the table, wash dishes, and clean the counters, so I don’t think we have ever let it sit before. However, I will be vigilant in the future! Thanks for sharing this information, as weelas, the tip for using the annoying silica packets.

  8. Mrs Green says:

    @Cate: Hi Cate, well between you and me, I make enough rice for around 3 days, keep it in the ‘fridge and reheat it thoroughly – I’ve been doing this for year. I only ditched this rice this week because it had been left out. 😉

    @Poppy: Poppy, that’s fantastic – 7 weeks without putting out your bin and room for more – well done you! Gold stars and glitter *~~*~*~*~*

    @Brian Williams: Thanks Brian; well perhaps I could save some up and offer them to someone living in a damp house; that would be great!

    @sandy: Great idea, Sandy – thank you!

    @magdalena: Hi there, well these shoes came in the post, so I couldn’t leave it there. but certainly stores reusing it would be a great idea. If I ever come across it again in a shop-bought purchase I will leave it at the checkout 😉

    @Susi: Hi Susi, good to see you – thank you for sharing your reuse idea 🙂

    @Alea: You’re welcome Alea. I love how you have a rhythm at the end of meal times to ensure everything is put away. Strangely most things seem to be left to me LOL!

  9. tammy says:

    I have never heard of rice causing food poisoning! I’m a stickler for putting things in the frige after a meal. Still this is a really handy thing to know! Thanks Ms G!

  10. nadine sellers says:

    I stick a few packets of silica in the cracker or cookie jar the beans container along with bay leaves as pest deterrent.
    also put silica packets inside boots to keep the bacteria and fungi count down.
    then if it is a large packet, i open it and use the crystals in an empty vase to dry some flowers for dry bouquets.

  11. Ben says:

    @nadine sellers: Silica gel often contains cobalt chloride as an indicator of how much moisture it has absorbed, but unfortunately it’s poisonous and shouldn’t be used with food.

  12. Pippa says:

    If you’re using dishwasher tablets, place a silica packet to the tablet packet/container. As it absorbs the moisture, it’s especially handy with tablets wrapped in water-dissolving material.
    Also throw a packet or two to your car’s dashboard – they’ll help to keep the window less foggy in wintertime.

  13. @ Ben. ouch!, much obliged, i won’t put these little packets in food containers, though some did come from foodstuffs. forgot which types; they do seem to be tightly sealed though with no apparent permeability on shiny surface.

  14. Mrs Green says:

    @tammy: Hi Tammy; you’re welcome. Yes, rice is one of those unsuspecting things, isn’t it?

    @nadine sellers: Hi Nadine; I never knew you could use silica to dry flowers – that’s a good idea!

    @Pippa: Brilliant suggestions, Pippa – thank you! We get bad fogging on the dashboard; so I’ll try your idea.

  15. Jack says:

    Silica jell/packets can be ‘refreshed’ at home.

    After cooking something yummy and the oven is still warm (200F or so) toss the packets on a baking sheet,
    preferably one with holes underneath the packets, or put a baking rack on the cookie sheet to allow warm
    air all the way around. And let them cook for half an hour or so.

    When you pull them out, let them cool till easy to handle, then if you aren’t using them right away, put them in a sealed air tight container (clean reused-jar or zip lock type container or bag) to keep them for when you do need them.

    There is a ‘dryer’ for closets I have seen that contains sodium silica. You can recycle the jell from them, but if it is liquid, put them on an old jelly roll sheet (you don’t use for cooking anymore, this is a sheet with a rim) and pour the liquid jell from the dryer on the sheet. Dry is again at about 200F until it is solid again, then let it cool. If it is a solid sheet, break it up and put it into a air tight container until you are ready to reuse. If it is the kind that was liquid when you dried it, it will return to liquid state when you reuse it too, so put it in an appropriate container when you reuse it. Keep it sealed in an air tight container until you want to reuse it.

    My mom did this a lot back ‘in the day’.

  16. Mrs Green says:

    @Jack: Thanks for the comprehensive instructions Jack; you learn something new every day!

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