Bacillus cereus is a gram-positive, endospore forming pathogenic bacterium that is ubiquitous in the environment and is frequently associated with emetic and diarrheal types of foodborne illness. In this study, 178 samples of raw rice from retail food stores were analyzed for the presence of B. cereus spores. Spores of Bacillus species were found in 94 (52.8%) of the rice samples with an average concentration of 32.6 CFU/g (3.6-460 CFU/g for B. cereus and 3.6-23 CFU/g for Bacillus thuringiensis). Eighty three of the 94 isolates were identified as B. cereus and 11 were identified as B. thuringiensis. Bacillus mycoides (240 CFU/g) was the predominant isolate in one rice sample. Using PCR the isolates were checked for the presence of the cereulide synthetase gene (ces), the hblA and hblD genes of the hemolysin BL (HBL) complex and the nheA and nheB genes of the nonhemolytic (NHE) enterotoxin complex. The ces gene was not identified in any of the isolates. By contrast 47 (56.6%) B. cereus isolates possessed the hblA and hblD genes and 74 (89.1%) isolates possessed the nheA and nheB genes. As determined by commercial assay kits, forty four (53.0%) of the 83 B. cereus isolates produced both NHE and HBL enterotoxins whereas 78 (93.9%) were positive for either one or the other. Protein toxin crystals were detected visually in the 11 B. thuringiensis isolates. PCR analysis revealed 10 (90.9%) of those 11 isolates carried the cry gene. All the B. thuringiensis isolates were positive for NHE and HBL enterotoxins. Our results suggest that foodborne illness in the U.S. due to B. cereus with rice as the vehicle would be most likely associated with the diarrheal-type syndrome.