Dear Hallee: Leaving Food Out

Last night we had some bad storms come rough right after supper. I had made an extra spaghetti casserole to freeze, but it was too hot to put in freezer right then so I was going to do it later. The power was off until after I went to bed. I forgot to put the casserole in the freezer. Do you think it’s still good? It’s just noodles, sauce, and cooked hamburger meat. No cheese.

The short answer to that question is that it is not still good and should be thrown out.

There is what is called a “danger zone” for temperature for food. That range is from 40°F-140 °F.

food bacteria

Food left out within this temperature range can cause bacteria like Staphylococcus aureusSalmonella Enteritidis, Escherichia coli, and Campylobacter to grow at rapid rates.  In the right environment, the bacteria can double in as little as 20 minutes.

In room-temperature environments, food should not be left out longer than 2 hours.  Anything left out longer than 2 hours should be discarded.  If the temperature is above 90°F, it should not be left out longer than 1 hour.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Service, one of the most common causes of food born illnesses is the mishandling of cooked food.  Once food has been cooked, it should be moved to shallow containers to help facilitate quick cooling, and refrigerated within 2 hours.  When it’s reheated, it should be thoroughly heated to 165°F.



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