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boil those beans

Earlier this week, I fell ill from what I presume to be food poisoning. As far as I can gather, it was not of microbial nature, but rather was caused by lectins in the beans I had for lunch. This protein is most concentrated in kidney beans as phytohaemagglutinin (PHA), but is also present in other varieties. In my case, I had prepared my meal from dried pinto beans. I followed the standard procedure of an overnight soak, followed by draining/rinsing and supplying fresh water for the cooking. I brought it up to a boil then reduced to a simmer for a few hours. Alas, my boil time was very short, and it seems this is where I endangered myself. According to the US Food & Drug Administration’s Center for Food Safety & Applied Nutrition in their “Bad Bug Book,” chapter 43, you should boil for at least 10 minutes. (Elsewhere in the BBC’s h2g2 project, 15 minutes is recommended.) Apparently, “several outbreaks have been associated with slow cookers or crock pots.” So, this is my warning, a public service announcement, to my fellow bean-eaters. You do not want to experience what I went through on Tuesday! It was not pretty and indeed rather scary.

7 Responses to “boil those beans”

  1. Christine says:

    Thanks for telling about this. Sorry you had to learn the hard way. I never knew any of this but I will sure be careful from now on. I have cooked chick peas in a slow cooker before but I will be sure to boil them before I put them in the crock pot next time. Most of time I use the pressure cooker, so that is probably o.k.

  2. d says:

    Get a stainless steel Presto pressure cooker (used from eBay is good) and this will never happen again. I am a bean connoisseur and pretty well versed in cooking them. Soak them, I cook w/ the soaking water. I cook under pressure and simmer them too doing a typical batch


    4 quart is good for 12-16oz bag of beans and split peas. But I’m such a fan I do have two 6 quarts and two 4 quarts

    Good luck

  3. zenpawn says:

    Thanks. No doubt a pressure cooker would ensure proper safety as well. However, I reckon I’m going to pass on yet another kitchen gadget at this time. :) I don’t find the long cooking time to be much of a hassle. So, for me and others without such tools, we just need to be sure to boil the beans for the requisite 10-15 minutes, as indicated in the FDA citation, prior to reducing the heat.

  4. Arturo Veve says:

    Hi Erin

    I don’t know what to say other than I’m sorry you got sick. I have heard this about red and pinto beans. However, I prepare raw food pates from sprouted chick peas, black eye peas, lentils or green peas. I have not gotten sick from my preparations. I watch out for mold. After the germination occurs, I soak the sprouted beans in vinegar, so as to inhibit mold. One can also put a few drops of hydrogen peroxide in the rinse water during the sprouting cycle. But in any case, this doesn’t apply, since what you’re talking about is soaking, later cooking beans.


  5. Erin says:

    Yes, as you point out, the preparation is different. Also, lectin is not a pathogen like mold, but rather a toxin. Note too that the FDA site, in bold text no less, states, “Undercooked beans may be more toxic than raw beans” and that the “syndrome is not well known in the medical community.” It was a harrowing experience, but the research that followed has been fascinating. Thanks for your comments and stay well. :)

  6. melody says:

    I’m glad you’re feeling better… I will make sure to boil my beans! I don’t think I make a habit of actually boiling them for 10 minutes.

  7. nicole says:

    Thanks for the information! I’m glad you’re feeling better. Your recipes are all so interesting and look delicious; I can’t wait for an opportunity to try the tiramisu! -nicole

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