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Oct 9, 2008 08:49 AM

Chili left out all night. Would you eat it?

Hubby and I just made a new pot of turkey chili last night around 8 p.m. It was left on the stove to cool and we forgot about it when we went to bed. I got up this morning at 7 a.m. and - after cursing our lack of attention - stashed it in the fridge.

Food safety wisdom probably advises to dump it. But the real question is, would you eat it anyway?

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  1. Sure! Chili is cooked for a long time, so it shouldn't really be a problem. You may want to add a little liquid and bring it to a boil before serving, but I would totally eat it! I bet it's delicious!

    1. I had a roommate in college who would always leave soups, casseroles, etc, out all night and then put them in the fridge the next morning. I don't recall her ever getting sick from eating the leftovers.

      1. absolutely. I routinely leave out chili, spag sauce, etc overnight with no ill effects. But be sure to fridge it in the AM.

        1. I wouldn't eat it for 2 reasons:

          #1 it was left out all night, sitting in the bacteria growing danger zone for an extended time.

          #2 it was turkey chili. ;-D

          1. Nope. I would dump it. A food needs 6 things for microorganisms to thrive: food (duh), acidity, time, temperature, oxygen and moisture.

            Sounds like you've got all of those covered... not good. Especially if there's beans in the chili. Starches are often a greater hazard than the protein (hint: it's not the mayo in the picnic potato salad that makes you sick, it's the potatoes!)

            24 Replies
            1. re: jlbwendt

              >>>>it's not the mayo in the picnic potato salad that makes you sick, it's the potatoes!<<<<

              Would you kindly provide credible documentation/links to back up that statement.

              1. re: johnb


                According to the FDA model food code, potatoes and cooked rice, beans or other heat treated plant foods are all considered potentially hazardous and are required to be kept out of the "danger zone". (ServSafe coursebook, National Restaurant Association, 1999, page 1-6, ISBN is 0471204420 if you're interested)

                Here's another source:
                And another from Chow itself:
                One more!

                While I don't doubt mayonnaise has the potential to make you sick under certain conditions (especially home-made which isn't pasteurized) most people overlook the hazard of the potatoes, rice, pasta, etc.

                1. re: jlbwendt

                  Of course the potatoes can host bacteria. You're missing the point. The question is, why does potato salad have a particular reputation for making folks sick (which is why you mentioned it)? Answer, it is the mayo which contains the substance that brings in the problem, not the potatoes. And yes it is only with home made mayo, not commercial mayo, since the latter must be made with pasteurized eggs (btw it is the eggs that are pasteurized, not the finished mayo). Home made mayo, made with uncooked eggs, brings in the bacteria which then grow in the potatoes. But it is the mayo (home made) that is at the root of making you sick, not the potatoes. That is why potato salad has the reputation it has, not because there is anything especially dangerous about potatoes and other starches as you implied.

                  1. re: johnb

                    Sorry, that's incorrect. Mayonnaise typically has a pH of 4.2 to 4.6, which is very disruptive to bacterial growth. In the 1980s, the Food Research Institute of the University of Wisconsin conducted studies showing that, in the presence of mayo, harmful bacteria slow in growth, or die. So mayo actually reduces the chance that the potatoes will give you food poisoning.

                    1. re: alanbarnes

                      Yes, that is true about commercial mayo (made with pasteurized eggs, and by law including the level of acidifiers you mentioned), but not homemade mayo (made with unpasteurized eggs and who knows what level of acidifiers), and it is the homemade version that, in the past, led to the "potato salad" problem, and gave potato salad its dangerous reputation, which you rightly point out is undeserved in the modern context (when made with commercial mayo). Yet many "food safety experts" continue to paint potato salad as particularly dangerous.

                      1. re: johnb

                        Mayonnaise is acidic by definition. And that acid (usually lemon juice or vinegar) tends to kill any pathogens that unpasteurized eggs might bring to the party. Garlic and mustard help, too. Radford and Board (full cite below) demonstrated that homemade mayonnaise made according to traditional recipes is generally quite safe.

                        That's not to say that you couldn't whip up something that resembles mayo and is an effective bacterial growth medium. But you'd have to deviate significantly from any recipe I've ever seen. And with little or no acid, I can't imagine that the stuff would taste very good.

                        1. re: alanbarnes

                          OK fine, then explain how potato salad got such a bad rap. Do bacteria self-generate within the potatoes, like the immaculate conception? Or was it all a big hoax? Or was the problem really the hot dogs?

                          I'm an old guy, and have even done my time in academia, and I've learned that one academic study doth not a final conclusion make.

                          1. re: johnb

                            I agree that a single study isn't conclusive. Four more are cited below. If you want more I can get 'em.

                            As far as how potato salad gets a bad rap, it's because it deserves it. Tepid ingredients are subject to extensive handling (cubing the cooled cooked potatoes, chopping the celery, slicing the hard-boiled egg), then mixed together. That's a recipe for food poisoning right there. The bacteria don't self-generate, they come from the cutting board where maybe a chicken was cut up earlier, or from the hands of the cook, or from the spoon that was double-dipped to check if the salad had enough salt.

                            And just because mayonnaise is a poor growth medium doesn't mean it creates a magical bacteria-free zone around everything it touches. Potatoes aren't terribly hospitable to bacteria either, but a nice chunk of warm hard-boiled egg - now that's someplace a staphylococcus can call home and start a family.

                            1. re: johnb

                              The danger in potato salad come from the potatoes, not the mayo.

                              This is from Cook's Illustrated:

                              "The main ingredients in mayonnaise are raw eggs, vegetable oil, and an acid (usually vinegar or lemon juice). The eggs used in commercially made mayonnaise have been pasteurized to kill salmonella and other bacteria. Its high acidity is another safeguard; because bacteria do not fare well in acidic environments, the lemon juice or vinegar inhibits bacterial growth. Mayonnaise, even when homemade, is rarely the problem unless it contains very little acid. It's the potatoes that are more likely to go bad.

                              The bacteria usually responsible for spoiled potato salad are Bacillus cereus and Staphylococcus aureus (commonly known as staph). Both are found in soil and dust, and they thrive on starchy, low-acid foods like rice, pasta, and potatoes. If they find their way into your potato salad via an unwashed cutting board or contaminated hands, they can wreak havoc on your digestive system."

                              1. re: johnb

                                When you make a home made mayo it is really easy not to use enough acid to make it safe. Factor in that many people use unpasturized eggs which if eaten raw can make you sick anyway. Add to that people's perception of the perishibility of food. I mean it really does seem logical that something made with eggs will go bad quickly. And then take into account that potato salad is served in summertime where it sits in 90 degree heat smack in the middle of the temperature danger zone where bacterial groth is at its peak. That is where the bad rep came from.

                                I would like to add that sometimes using common sense and experience often yields better results than reading studies.

                                1. re: johnb

                                  It is actually the potato. bacteria plus cut up veggie (esp root) = potential for problems.

                                  Old guys are awesome. The big mayo hoax. I see a book.

                              2. re: johnb

                                I know my microbiology professor loved to bring up the family reunion potato salad story as a prime example of how to get food poisoning.

                              1. re: jlbwendt

                                Doyle, M.P., et al. (1982), Fate of Salmonella typhimurium and Staphylococcus aureus in meat salads prepared with mayonnaise. J. Food Prot. 45 (2): 152-6

                                Erickson, J. P., et al. (1991) Comparative Salmonella spp. and Listeria monocytogenes inactivation rates in four commercial mayonnaise products. J. Food Protect. 54 (12):913-916

                                Glass, K. A. et al. (1991) Fate of Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes in commercial, reduced calorie mayonnaise. J. Food Protect. 54 (9): 691-695

                                Radford, S. A. and Board, R. G. 1993. Review: Fate of pathogens in home-made mayonnaise and related products. Food Microbiology 10: 269-278

                                Smittle, R. B. (1977) Microbiology of mayonnaise and salad dressing: A review. J. Food Protect. 40 (6): 415-422.

                                1. re: alanbarnes

                                  Is there Mayo is the chili that the OP made?

                                  1. re: alanbarnes

                                    "Smittle, R. B. (1977) Microbiology of mayonnaise and salad dressing: A review. J. Food Protect. 40 (6): 415-422"

                                    J. Food Protect??? I'm impressed

                            2. re: johnb

                              It's true - mayo doesn't make anyone sick....commercial mayo doesn't spoil easily. The prohibition against mayo at room temp is a holdover from the days when people made homemade mayo w/raw eggs.

                              1. re: JaneRI

                                It's actually recommended to hold homemade mayo at room temp for 24 hours after preparation because Salmonella spp. bacteria die off at a slower rate under refrigeration. The simple fact is that, so long as you make your mayonnaise according to any traditional recipe, the acid will kill off the pathogens. The folk wisdom about may being a significant source of potential food poisoning is just wrong.

                                1. re: alanbarnes

                                  I'm on your side Alan.
                                  Alton Brown touched on the subject as well. As for the people with the "Conventional wisdom says..." argument, there are plenty of "Old wives tales" that science has proven to be hooey!!


                                2. re: JaneRI

                                  When i was doing some volunteer work serving food to the Hurricane Gustav evacuees, we served hamburgers one night. Mayo was a very popular condiment, and we ran out quickly, but one evacuee had brought along some miracle whip of her own that she would stash in her jacket or under the table while she was eating. She wasn't able to refrigerate it the whole time she was at the shelter, and i was wondering if it would make her sick. I don't use mayo or miracle whip myself, but i had just always assumed you had to keep it cold. Guess not.

                                  1. re: iluvtennis

                                    It should be noted that miracle whip is not mayonaise. Also there are some commercial mayonaises (made for restaurants) that never need to be refrigerated because of the magical chemicals they are made with.

                                    1. re: keith2000

                                      Miracle whip is basically mayo with extra seasoning

                                      1. re: C. Hamster

                                        I disagree...MW is nothing like Mayo. Any extra seasonings aside, the ingredients and method of production are radically different.