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refused to eat, out of line?

I was recently invited to dinner. I discovered that the host had started cooking the burgers on the stovetop at around 3pm, but decided that was too early, so he turned the stove off and left the burgers sitting there about 1/3 cooked. At around 5:30 or so he turned the stove back on and continued where he left off.

Admittedly not very politely, I declined to eat (ok, i told him that there were more reliable ways to poison his friends.) I admit the comments I made were probably inappropriate, but was I completely out of line to refuse to eat? The host thought I was being stupid as the burgers were fully cooked when served.

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  1. You could've done the old mutton trick that Seinfeld used ... bite, and spit into napkin.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ipsedixit

      Or just shake your head, and refuse to eat, also in Seinfeld :)

    2. Besides the potential health issue, that is one crummy way to cook a burger! I wouldn't have eaten either.

      1. Were there any other things edible? You could have also just told a white lie and said you were full from the sides/appetizers or said you were cutting down on your red meat intake.

        2 Replies
        1. re: MrsT

          There were lukewarm hot dogs and room temperature potato salad. I know I could have been better mannered but should I have just taken my chances and eaten what was served?

          1. re: KaimukiMan

            Hey, if it's a friend, why not be honest? Obviously your ideas of food/entertaining differ. Hopefully there are other compensating factors in this relationship.

        2. I hope you both let it go and move on. We forgive our friends for their foibles, which each of you think was committed by the other.
          P.S. Isn't that how hockey pucks are made?

          1. Next time just stay quiet, drink all of his whiskey you can then when time come to eat casually tell your host you feel bad and leave. What can he say.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Littleman

              Ew on the boiled, steamed, and smoked burgers. I wouldn't have eaten them either -- weren't they overdone beyond recognition? Ew.

              Could I say what you did? No, probably not.

              I like Littleman's idea, drink all his booze and leave.

              Does this guy always cook like this? I've never heard of such pathetic grilling skills. Part of being a good host is timing. Sheesh.

              1. re: Littleman

                To littleman: this response I like, a lot.

                1. Was the cook wrong? Yes.
                  Were you rude? Yes.

                  I call it a draw.

                  1. Gack! I've posted about my little brother poisoning most of our extended family by cooking chicken like this. Only a fool would eat food that's been so abused. In fact, I wouldn't eat anything that came out of this idiot's kitchen.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: pikawicca

                      LOL, that's what I wanted to say:)

                      1. re: pikawicca

                        I gotta go with what pika says. If this guy can't cook, he should have let someone else do it. Start cooking burgers at 3 for dinner to be served 3 hours later? WTH?

                        I read that the OP said below that the host claims there's "no problem" and that he and his wife do this all the time. Again, all I can say is WTH??? WHY would someone do this "all the time"?

                        And just because he and his wife seem to have iron stomachs doesn't mean guests might. Chalk it up to incredible idiocy about food safety on the host's part. And be thankful you probably won't get any more invitations.

                      2. This is where it's appropriate to slip your friend a free coupon for a Sam's Club 5 pound pack of frozen quarter pound patties, that he can keep frigid until right before service, then fire up the grill with all the flair and flare of a caveman. That way, all you'll need to worry about is the multi-cow origins of that meat.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: FoodFuser

                          that is what these were. and in reply to pika and bubbly above.... that is pretty much what i ended up saying. i don't think ill be invited back, nor do i think i'd accept. I did send an apology note for being rude. no response. the host claims there is no problem so long as the meat is cooked before it is served, he does it all the time and he and spouse never get sick from it.

                        2. such a tough one when food hygiene is at stake. I have seen burgers flipped with the same spatula as the raw ones, chicken turned with the same tongs as going into the raw pieces or back in the raw marinade. Do we allow ourselves to maybe get food poisoning or just say I'm full or not feeling too well?

                          1. It's one thing if someone is just not a very good cook. Then you smile, and say thank you, and choke it down. If it's a matter of food safety, I see no problem with politely declining. I'd go so far as to "educate" your friend on what they did wrong so they don't inadvertently poison someone else in the future.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: ajs228

                              I agree. How else are stupid people going to learn about food safety if no one tells them? I'm always astonished at how little some people know about how long food can safely be left out, etc. It's as if they never read.

                            2. No different than your favorite fast food burger joint.

                              11 Replies
                              1. re: monku

                                i don't think the fast food place leaves them half cooked in the sun for 2 hours then finishes then before serving. they cook them completely, then reheat in a microwave. cooked meat as i understand it is less prone to spoiling than raw. but i could be wrong.

                                1. re: KaimukiMan

                                  A. I wouldn't have been able to get past it either. Food poisoning is no joke and can have pretty crummy repercussions including hospitalization. Perhaps you could've phrased your objection more politely or told a white lie, but all things being equal you were both in the wrong. (Not for refusing to eat, but for being tooo.....direct about why.)
                                  re: fastfood burgers: in the early '90's I had a friend who managed a food-court hamburger stand, and she told me that they half-cooked the burgers on the grill, then put them into a pan filled w/ warm water and a little liquid smoke, finishing the burgers to order as orders came in. That put me off fast food burgers entirely.

                                  1. re: mamachef

                                    Speaking as someone who has had food poisoning and been hospitalized TWICE - once from frozen clams and once from a "fast food" joint when I was 8 month's pregnant, I would not have eaten it either.

                                    1. re: boyzoma

                                      For those who have been hospitalized with food poisoning, how did they determine exactly what it was that poisoned you? Are there tests to determine which specific food was the culprit, or is it just deduction based on what you ate and when you ate it? I have sincerely wondered about this as I have heard a lot of stories about people getting poisoned by something specific and wondered how they knew. I guess if other people who ate the same food also got sick, this is one way to determine it. But if not, then how?

                                      1. re: ed1066

                                        ed - sorry it took me so long to get back to you. It can be done by testing the food - which happened in one situation with me. It can also be done by assumption and timing of what you ate, which also happened to me in another instance. In the first instance, the tests on the food came back positive. In the second instance, I had not had any food for quite a while (we are talking many, many hours as I was sitting with my friend in labor all night at the hospital). Then stopped at a fast food joint once I left the hospital as I was ravenous and wanted to eat something quick and then sleep. Hah!

                                        1. re: ed1066

                                          timing is not a reliable judge as food poisoning can take anywhere from very quickly to 3 days to manifest. people very often are blaming the wrong food

                                          1. re: thew

                                            In my case, it was almost immediate. According to my Dr., what I had just eaten was most likely the culprit. (I might also add - I was 8 month's pregnant myself at the time). Not fun!

                                          2. re: ed1066

                                            I've only been sick from food once. In my case, I was part of a large outbreak isolated to people who attended a work event. The local health department interviewed everyone in my department, both those who got sick and those who didn't, and they were able to determine the common thread. Everyone who got sick ate melon from fruit platter, and only a few people who didn't get sick ate the melon. The melon was the only clear difference between the two groups.

                                            1. re: ed1066

                                              There's actually pretty extensive work done once an illness or poisoning has been reported. I think I spent a combined 4 hours over three phone calls providing information after my son got e. coli. I also collected all grocery receipts, listed menus, and sent credit card statements for that time period so they could identify all restaurants and food-related stores.

                                              It was time I was happy to give since my 2 year old ended up in intensive care with 95% kidney failure. Fortunately the outbreak was small and only a dozen people were hospitalized (mostly children) but they never did find out what caused it - too small of a sample to work from. Thankfully my son made a full recovery but it radically changed my once laissez faire attitude.

                                              1. re: sebetti

                                                I just read a book about this--kind of like a CSI for medical illnesses. It's called Deadly Dinner Party.


                                      2. re: monku

                                        I have worked for a few different restaurant chains while going to school (Mickey D's, Dennys) and this is absolutely NOT the way burgers are cooked in those places. As we all know some restaurants are more sanitation/saftey conscious than others, but after the jack-in-the-box deaths of the early 90's (and subsequent lawsuits), the restuarant industry is much more sanitation conscious.

                                        All food needs to be kept either below 40 or above 140 to keep bacteria from multiplying. Anywhere between those temperatures is considered the food "danger zone." Even if you cook it over 165, some bacteria leave toxins behind in food that remain no matter how long you cook it. Anything left in that 'danger zone" for more than 2 hours should generally be thrown out.

                                        The cook and his wife may have done this before and not gotten sick from it, but its a roll of the dice. Food poisioning (I have gotten it twice) is not a fun thing at all, and for those of us with supressed immune systems, as well as the the young and the elderly, eating mishandled food can have grave consequences. While you may have been a bit rude, I understand your POV. The cook was putting your health at risk, and I would have reacted in a similar fashion.

                                      3. I can't help but imagine if the scenario was that I'd prepared a beautifully cooked pink & juicy steak, only to have a guest say that I was trying to poison him/her with E. Coli. Can you imagine what that thread would look like on Chowhound? :)

                                        In the mind of the host, he'd simply prepared something good enough to serve to guests....though if he called you "stupid" for opting out, it might be harder to "channel Miss Manners".

                                        Bottom line: Perhaps you could have been more polite as a guest, but I don't think it was out of line to refuse to eat something you felt uncomfortable with. An equally gracious host would not force it.

                                        12 Replies
                                        1. re: 4Snisl

                                          as long as steak is properly seared on the outside (and has been handled properly before cooking), you can get away with eating it raw on the inside. Bacteia grow on the surface of food. When you grind meat, it is very likely you have ground the bacteria right into the middle of that burger. The only way to kill all the bacteria is to cook the entire burger to 160 degrees (This is why many restaurants will not cook a burger any less than 160 degrees and/or med/med well).

                                          1. re: joe777cool

                                            That's just not true about steak. While it's safer than ground beef, there's no guarantee that pathogens don't reside within. Someone I know had an almost black and blue steak in a fine restaurant a few years ago and became horrifically ill. It was salmonella, and resisted antibiotic treatment. Took months to get rid of it, all the while suffering terribly. Whether you cook meat at home or order out, you don't know how it's been handled from production to your home.

                                            1. re: mcf

                                              are you sure it was the steak, and not the lettuce in the salad? or the burger he had the day before for lunch? or from the doorknob he opened the door with? etc...?

                                              1. re: mcf

                                                I have been through serve safe certification, twice, and went right to the fda website while I was typing out these responses just to make sure I had all my facts straight. Do some research and you will find out that what I said is correct.

                                                "Even if the middle of the meat is pink and rare it does not matter. The harmful bacteria contaminates the outside of the meat, which is destroyed when cooking, even if you prepare a rare steak.

                                                One should be more careful with minced meat , burgers and sausages. The bacteria is spread throughout the whole product during manufacture. You should make sure you cook this kind of meat right through until it is piping hot."

                                                reference - "Eating rare steaks does not increase chances of food poisoning"

                                                Your friend may have had a bad experience, but as thew said it was most likely caused by something else he/she ate or by improper handling (using the same utensils for both raw and cooked meats) of the ingredients.

                                                1. re: joe777cool

                                                  My point was simply that people have different standards about what's "safe" to eat, and was using the example of pink steak as an example of what's commonly accepted as OK, but not by all people. In many CH circles, cooking a steak to well-done might seem overly precautious , but that might be precisely what a guest considers necessary to avoid any health risks.

                                                  Giving this host the benefit of the doubt, he probably didn't think he was playing fast and loose with food safety.... though by KaimukiMan's standards (and mine.... and many others', I suspect), the safe food station was a couple of stops back.

                                                  Neither the host nor the guest should force an individual point of view on each other. (And if there's disagreement, maintain some level of civility.....)

                                                  1. re: 4Snisl

                                                    I enjoy a medium to medium rare burger as much as anyone. I grew up eating raw ground beef. But that was before the ground beef came from who knows where and who knows how many cows it came from. The beef was ground in the market only a couple of hours before (if that) and had been kept refrigerated the whole time.

                                                    Thats a long way from a burger that was first thawed for a barbecue the day before, had sat out for at least a couple of hours that day, then been re-chilled overnight, partially seared, and left in the sun for another few hours, with the intent to be cooked medium rare that evening.

                                                    I was wrong to over react. But was it wrong to decline to eat?

                                                    1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                      IMHO, it wasn't wrong to decline eating, KM. My general rule for how to behave is weighing consequences to others as well as myself. What were the consequences of not eating the burger?

                                                      The most significant consequence to your friend was a bruised ego. He extended and invitation with good intentions (I presume he wasn't ACTUALLY trying to poison you :). To have the actions behind good intentions misunderstood/rejected stings.

                                                      The most significant consequence to you was walking around a potentially risky health situation. Most people with any shred of interest in food safety would know it was a risky situation, but we can't assume that's on anyone's radar screen.

                                                      At least you have the perspective to recognize that a different approach might have softened the negative impact on your friend.

                                                      1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                        Never wrong to decline if you think it's going to make you sick. I had a friend cook ribs, put them on a platter and then dump the contents of the zip-lock bag they had been marinating in over the top of the cooked ribs. I signalled to my husband not to eat them and kept the kids away.

                                                        1. re: southernitalian

                                                          wow..... that is even worse than the op's issue. How clueless!

                                                      2. re: 4Snisl

                                                        There is a huge distinction between food temperature preferences, which it sounds like you are suggesting, and rather common food safety guidelines like cooking chicken to 165 and hamburg to 160.

                                                      3. re: joe777cool

                                                        "reference - "Eating rare steaks does not increase chances of food poisoning"

                                                        Your friend may have had a bad experience, but as thew said it was most likely caused by something else he/she ate or by improper handling (using the same utensils for both raw and cooked meats) of the ingredients."

                                                        Not necessarily, though, it really depends upon handling. If the meat is pierced, for instance, and bugs make it from the surface into the middle. Isn't that why we wash melons before cutting into them?

                                                        I know whole pieces are safer, and it's why I wash the outside and then grind my own burger meat, so I don't have to eat it well done.

                                                      4. re: mcf

                                                        I know the public health dept. did an investigation at the time, and that was the conclusion as I recall it. I wish I could remember if they visited the restaurant for samples, etc.
                                                        Perhaps in part because my other friend had shared or eaten the other stuff on the table but was creeped out and had warned the other one that the meat looked too raw.

                                                  2. Look, we're all the masters of our own destiny, and the keepers of our own bodies, the only one we'll ever have (well, Shirliey Maclaine would beg to differ), so if you felt in jeopardy, it's you right to refuse to eat that disgusting offering.
                                                    I would question the safety of anything and everything your host served. That is absolutely, positively clueless, poor food safety. People DIE from shit like that, so if you're feeding people, have awareness!
                                                    ps..were you snarky? yup. But, I like your dry sense of humor ;-)
                                                    pps..good for you for fessing up to your own foibles!

                                                    1. No glory on either side here, I think. If someone is clueless like that cook, angry commentary is not (as you seem to acknowledge) the most fitting or constructive response. But you're right not to eat something so clearly within the danger zone for food poisoning.

                                                      1. I would not eat it. I have had severe food poisoning twice, and do not have a cast iron stomach. If you are feeding anyone other than yourself you need to act responsibly. You aren't always going to know if someone has a compromised immune system or if they are pregnant.

                                                        That said, my SO's mother found out that I was uncomfortable with much of her kitchen practices. I now have a reputation with her immediate circle as being neurotic. I pick and choose with care what I eat from her kitchen. I am not troubled with being label as such from folks with so little understanding of kitchen hygiene and safe food handling.

                                                        As a host I don't feel it is my job to comment on what my guest eats or doesn't eat. If it appears that my menu is not to their taste I offer other alternatives. No one is going to starve from missing a meal or only eating a little.

                                                        1. I would have just declined rather that stating why. I find that it's impossible to educate friends about food safety. They either don't get it or they have to read it in some "expert" publication. In addition to being a CH, I'm such a food hygiene freak that it's practically a disorder, so when people ask why I'm not eating the gloopy meatloaf that was plated up three hours ago, I just attribute it to my food weirdness, Telling people you're just weird is more polite than telling them they're wrong and it really stops all further inquiry.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: Isoldamay

                                                            "It's not you, it's me" is really a useful phrase, in so very many situations.

                                                          2. "my stomach is bothering me a bit," or " I'm just not that hungry tonight." a few other good white lies, but jfood is not eating them either. Stating what you did was inappropriate though.

                                                            Jfood's mom invited them for dinner. She roasted a small turkey and took it out of the oven at 10AM. The jfoods arrived at 7PM and the turkey sat on the counter for the nine hours. Jfood told his mom that they had a late and large lunch so just a salad and dessert would be great, they were there to see her. They took the turkey with them so his mom would not leave it out all night and eat it the next day.

                                                            19 Replies
                                                            1. re: jfood

                                                              Yes, I do regret my outburst and have repented. I much appreciate the suggestions as to how to handle it in the future.

                                                              But being the only one "in-the-know", how do I sit idly by and let others eat food I am well aware may be contaminated (including 2-6 year old toddlers?) And yes, I know that is a different question than what I first asked.

                                                              1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                jfood would recommend that you pull him aside and explain the risks associated with what he is doing and ask him out of earshot how he would feel if one of the kids got sick? Let him connect the dots.

                                                                1. re: jfood

                                                                  Up thread....why did you not mention this to Mom?

                                                                  1. re: BubblyOne

                                                                    Maturity and sensitivity.

                                                                    You do not tell an 80 year old woman who was proud of her efforts to cook for sme family that she may be causing illness in her grandchildren.

                                                                    1. re: jfood

                                                                      Nicely played.
                                                                      I had an in-law who was pretty inept around the grill. I told him I didn't mind cooking and encouraged him to join his other guests. He responded as if given a last-minute governor's pardon.

                                                                      edited to add: I threw his stuff out and started from scratch, seemed like the smart thing to do. Cleaning up after the fact was no big deal.

                                                                2. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                  No idea. I still havent found the proper way! I usually get "the look" from people who think im crazy when I wont eat a holiday turkey that was defrosted on the counter overnight. You get labeled as paranoid or neurotic, but I really dont care! The best thing you can do is give your 2 cents, but people are set in their ways and often wont make a change unless something serious happens.

                                                                3. re: jfood

                                                                  We run into very similar issues with my in-laws. My 80-year-old mother-in-law will have food pre-cooked, sitting in the pot on the stove for hours. Then will ask us if we're hungry, she has this wonderful soup, stew, etc. ready for us. Those days we too have suddenly remembered the lunch! I really wonder how they don't get sick more often. They refuse to put any leftovers in the fridge while they are "too hot," so the plastic containers sit on the counters for hours. She defrosts on the counter all the time. Maybe the saving grace is that most things are over-cooked? We also were there for a meal (planned early in the day) and she added another casserole dish to the table. She actually told us that she'd taken it out of the freezer and didn't remember what was in it. So she baked it and served it. We stayed away, and never figured out what it had been....

                                                                  1. re: eamcd

                                                                    for a great deal of european history many people had the same pot of food cooking.just add new stuff to the old. forever. maybe your food tastes just like your mother's because your mothers food is still in there forever.
                                                                    and while i do not advocate this Reductio ad absurdum as a culinary choice, they didn't all die of food poisoning either.....

                                                                    1. re: eamcd

                                                                      >>> 80-year-old mother

                                                                      Doesn't that say it all? :-)

                                                                        1. re: alkapal

                                                                          She may also smoke 2 packs a day and a drink a pint of jack (no disrespect intended at all), some people can just get away with living on the edge.

                                                                          1. re: joe777cool

                                                                            I'm not discounting anyone's story about getting ill from badly stored food. And again, if you feel it is not good for you, don't eat it.

                                                                            On the other hand, sometimes people are just too safe. If an 80 year old woman is eating the food and not having a problem, then personally, I would chow down with her ... though I might pass by the mystery caserole. The poster's daughter seems to have an acceptable solution for her self and that is all good.

                                                                            I just feel that food poisoning is like a lottery.

                                                                            Some people win life's lucky lottery ... a big jackpot, a car, some big prize. There's not many of them.

                                                                            Some people win lifes UNlucky lottery ... their house burns down, they are in an accident, they are just at the wrong place at the wrong time. There's not many of them either.

                                                                            And you can do things to lessen the chance of being an unlucky winner ... drive carefully, make sure your car is taken care of,etc

                                                                            But there are things beyond control ... the kid who barrels down a street, skips the stop sign and crashes into you.

                                                                            The same is true of food poisoning. Take precautions, but realize that winning the unlucky food lottery is probably a one in a million chance.

                                                                        2. re: rworange

                                                                          My 87 year old sharper than a tack mother in law would have a thing or two to say about that "80 year old mother saying it all" remark. Just sayin...

                                                                          1. re: buttertart

                                                                            i took rw's point to be that she is living at 80 with her long-standing food practices.

                                                                            1. re: alkapal

                                                                              Aha, I see, I trust that was what was meant. Otherwise would be very uncharacteristic of rw indeed.

                                                                              1. re: buttertart

                                                                                Yeah. That was it. Despite the choices she was making appalled the daughter, those choices didn't get shorten her life any and from the daughter's post, didn't even cause her much, if any illness along the way.

                                                                                1. re: rworange

                                                                                  If you were around pre-antibiotics and didn't croak of something as a child or young adult the chances are good you're fairly indestructible. As you of course know.
                                                                                  (Don't people who can't figure out that the "low life expectancy" in prior times is not that no one ever lived to more than say 40 but rather that high infant and child mortality brings the average down drive you crazy?)

                                                                                  1. re: rworange

                                                                                    Don't know if it's true, but I have been told by LPN's and other home health care givers that they are taught to not eat the food at their elderly patients homes because the patient may have built up an immunity to a particular pathogen that is prevalent in that particular micro-environment, but the health care giver / caretaker will have no such immunity. Always sounded a little fishy to me, after all salmonella is salmonella, but such is what I have heard from more than one source.

                                                                                    1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                                      I believe it, as I've said below. Children are more susceptible to viruses and diseases because they haven't built up an immunity. Ask anyone who is a teacher about their first few years around all those germs and how often they got sick. But, over time their bodies builds up more immunity and they get sick far less often. They're not exposed to fewer viruses. Some people get sicker are lower exposures of a virus, some less so. My whole family were all very sick with chicken pox when I was younger but I didn't get it, or at least, didn't have any symptoms. Varicella is varicella but people respond differently. I think salmonella is along the same lines.

                                                                      1. If they were fully cooked when served they were likely safe to eat, I'm not a microbiologist but I understand that whatever e:coli was present and multiplied in the 2-1/2 hours would have been killed by the subsequent cooking. Nevertheless, if you didn't feel comfortable eating them I don't think you were out of line to decline. There might be more polite ways to do that than what you said.

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: hsk

                                                                          hsk - sorry but you are completely incorrect. As I stated earlier, cooking food will kill the bacteria, but the toxins produced by those bacteria remain.

                                                                          The USDA has a section just on ground beef on their website:

                                                                          "Is it safe to partially cook ground beef to use later?
                                                                          No. Partial cooking of food ahead of time allows harmful bacteria to survive and multiply to the point that subsequent cooking cannot destroy them. "


                                                                        2. Wow, the host should be absolutely ashamed that he served the hamburgers that were prepared in such a way. He should have cut his losses and started up with another batch of burgers later on rather than risking sickness. And to serve them to toddlers?! God forbid, if one of those kids gets sick and the parent finds out the story behind the burgers he could be in for more than he bargained for.

                                                                          If you managed to let the host politely know that you were abstaining from the burgers more power to you as I would not have been so kind.

                                                                          1. The proper protocol is to protect the health of those present, the cook included. He probably doesn't want to hear it, but what about the other people invited? If they knew how he had prepared the food, would they have eaten it? Say it as tactfully as possible, but it must be said. Granted, he's done this before but what is to say that some time in the future he won't make himself or someone else sick? To not do anything out of fear of embarassing the cook makes no sense because if he is a good friend, he'll appreciate it later even if he can't in the moment.

                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                            1. re: NicoleFriedman

                                                                              But the cook already said he did not appreciate the problem, Nicole. So the question is more like: should one deliver a public address to the assembly?

                                                                              The issue is a genuine one, in any case. I do not think that anger, scorn or vehemence are called for, ever. But I can see myself taking a host aside confidentially and saying what my concerns were, especially with children and who know what else at stake.

                                                                              1. re: Bada Bing

                                                                                Again, the health of those present takes precedence. Yes, you need to tell them if the host won't, as tactfully as possible. If the host takes offence, at least you warned everyone and they can make their own decision.

                                                                            2. A little late to the party on this response ... have to wait for some stuff to be finished and killing time by reading boards I usually avoid.

                                                                              Anyway, I'm not going to comment on your response to your host. Enough people have done that.

                                                                              I will say that my opinions of food safety have DRASTICALLY changed since moving to a third world country and I find myself agreeing with Sam Fujisaka's post

                                                                              Am I the only one who lives in a magic house? A lighthearted look at ourselves & food safety

                                                                              Seriously, the way food is handled in Latin America, especially meat, would make most people turn vegetarian. Raw unrefrigerated fish, meat and chicken is sold after sitting all day at a vendor's stand, often in tropical heat. This is the standard, not the exception.Pest control involves waving a cloth over the food to shoo flies away.

                                                                              I will note that cooking methods differ. Food is long-cooked in stew or deep-fried such as chicharrons. It is also heavily salted. So some or all of that may keep the entire country of Guatemala from dropping dead from food poisoning.

                                                                              With the exception of cerviche, little is eaten raw or rare.

                                                                              Still, the little carts sell fried chicken that has been sitting all day in the pan with no refrigeration and there other such items such as salads, especially the potato salad called salad ruse, that sit in vats all day at room temperature.

                                                                              Here's my own early experience with food handling in this country

                                                                              Since people rarely follow links , I'll extract the part pertenant about making paches (similar to tamales but with potatoes instead of masa) so people can have a vicarious shudder

                                                                              "I watched most of the process from loading two live chickens from our house into a shopping bag for the drive over.

                                                                              It made me think twice about eating tamales. Some of the American standards for preparing food were put aside. This was family. It gave me pause about street vendors.

                                                                              The action started in the courtyard at the pila. The pila is a sink that is everywhere in Guatemala. These are what they usually look like

                                                                              Anyway, picture that sink ... the aunt is defeathering, degutting and chopping up chickens on the left and the grandmother is washing dinner dishes at the same time on the right. They are both using the water hose in the central tank.

                                                                              The courtyard is shaded by a huge peach tree and the aunt, in the middle of the chicken process, knocks a peach off the tree ... it rolls around the concrete floor where the dogs are playing, she picks it up, rinses it off and gives it to me to try.

                                                                              Despite my thoughts I was going to die, I am still here and did not suffer any distress.

                                                                              The pila worked for sharpening knives as well. The aunt would hone the edge against the concrete and go back to chopping the chicken on a wooden chopping board.

                                                                              A huge propane fueled burner was hauled out and a pressure cooker with the two birds were put on. I missed a little of the making of the potato mixture. The huge tub was already mashed up and the red sauce added. Some salt was being added and various people stopped by and scooped up a bit with their fingers to taste and comment on what else was needed.. The aunt would take a taste and go back to kneeding the mixture.

                                                                              The bottom of a huge blue pot was lined with the discarded parts of the leaves and the paches put on top to cook for a few hours.

                                                                              They were very good ... how could something with mashed potatoes not be good. They were served with white rolls and agua fresca from the peaches.

                                                                              For breakfast the next morning, we had lukewarm paches from the pot that had been sitting out all night. I guess the word samonella does not have a Spanish translation. I lived ... with no ill effects. Maybe it is not the way Americans handle poultry. Maybe it is the way that poultry farms raise chickens in the United States that is the problem."

                                                                              Anyway ... that's the condensed version of that thread.

                                                                              In our house meat is left on the counter to defrost. Meals are partially cooked, left on the stove until dinner a few hours later and heated. God knows how the food I've eaten at street vendors was handled.

                                                                              Yet I still live and have not gotten sick after almost four months.

                                                                              When I grew up it was in the days before all the food safety rules. Meat defrosted on the counter, including the Thanksgiving turkey (which also sat on the table for hours so people could pick on it all day)

                                                                              I am still alive.

                                                                              Yes food poisoning happens. Cars also crash. Airplanes go down. Lightening strikes.

                                                                              I think in our fear to avoid the unusual and infrequent food poisoning we turn into Howard Hughes or Howie Mandel. We are a germ-phobic nation.

                                                                              Does that mean I will abandon my food safety practices when I get back to the US. Of course not. Lightening does strike people. I'm not going to stand on the roof of the house in a thunderstorm either.

                                                                              I am sure the outcry to this post will be deafening. Listen, don't eat the hamburger left out on the counter. Do what makes you confortable.

                                                                              I'm just saying that that seems to be taking extreme precaution to save yourself from the exception rather than the norm. It is like never leaving your house or driving to keep from having the rare accident.

                                                                              Of course ... if I suddenly stop posting on Chowhound ... lightening struck.

                                                                              18 Replies
                                                                              1. re: rworange

                                                                                rworange, my Romanian in-laws handle meat very similar to what you describe in Guatemala. Been there twice and suffered no ill effects. Tried really hard not to freak out when they left raw meat from the store in the hot trunk of the car on a 90 degree day with horrid humidity for 2 hours. Didn't get sick. Scared the crap outta me when they came here and MIL handled the meat here the same way. Yet, I'm still alive and once again, never got sick. Lucky? Magic house? Difference in cooking methods? (she also makes lots of soups, things cooked in sauces) Who knows. I found it interesting though. But, I'm not so "brave" - my meat stays cool.

                                                                                1. re: Jen76

                                                                                  Yes. When I return to the US, I'll go back to handling meat the way I did.

                                                                                  To the OP ... I'm curious. Did anyone who ate the burgers get sick?

                                                                                  1. re: rworange

                                                                                    no one ate the burgers. it turned out that 3 of the 5 other guests don't eat beef and the other two chose to eat other things as well. The host did mention that I "didn't consider them fit to eat."

                                                                                    1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                                      the other two chose to eat other things as well. The host did mention that I "didn't consider them fit to eat."

                                                                                      So at least 2 others were as smart as you. :-)

                                                                                      1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                        Well, props to him for finally saying something, eh? And to them for taking your very good advice!!

                                                                                      2. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                                        This is like the Gone With The Wind of food stories...it keeps getting longer and more detailed:)

                                                                                  2. re: rworange

                                                                                    Yes, but that stuff came from real cows and chickens. Not from an ammonia-beef slurry made from previously considered unusable/contaminated by-products at a plant in North Dakota.

                                                                                    1. re: sebetti

                                                                                      Yes, or the fecal soup that poultry are immersed in before freezing.

                                                                                      Slaughtering practices have changed drastically over the past few decades, and not for the better. I never felt too worried about leaving the thanksgiving turkey out to defrost overnight in the 60's or 70's, but there's no way I'd do that now.

                                                                                    2. re: rworange

                                                                                      My parents swear that your system gets used to what you give it. If you live in a sterilized environment, like many Americans, you can get sick quickly when you leave it, eg. Montezuma's revenge. But, if your system can develop immunities when exposed enough, you're fine with things that might make others sick. It really is the same for all sicknesses that some will get sick when exposed, others won't. My mom has always left food out for hours, tastes raw meat marinades, all the things you're not supposed to do and never had ill effects from it. I think, if someone has always been extra cautious, he/she needs to be more cautious.

                                                                                      1. re: chowser

                                                                                        You know where I've been sick the most on trips, including Japan, Taiwan, HK, China, Greece, Italy, England, France? FRANCE. I usually get a crise de foie each time I'm there. Could have to do with the attempt to get as much down me as possible while there. Eggs there seem to be particularly problematic for me.

                                                                                        1. re: buttertart

                                                                                          Me too. I think it's all the raw milk cheeses I insist on eating.

                                                                                          1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                            Probably. Almost never sicker than I was the first time there. Sob. Lost a whole day of meals and was wonky for another.

                                                                                            1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                              I doubt it's the cheese, unless they were not properly aged cheeses....probably more than 95% of the cheeses I buy (both domestic and imported) are made from raw milk, including raw milk cheeses from a local NJ farm. Never made me sick.

                                                                                              1. re: The Professor

                                                                                                These are French cheeses, not American, and not aged AT ALL. A totally different product from what you have eaten.

                                                                                                  1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                    Thanks for clarifying...although the raw milk cheeses I've eaten were French (and other European) and were aged.
                                                                                                    I think the aging is a requirement for raw milk cheeses to be allowed to enter or be produced in the US. So you are correct in saying that I've never had raw milk cheeses of the type you had.
                                                                                                    From your story, I guess it's a good thing. ;-)

                                                                                              2. re: buttertart

                                                                                                I haven't been sick (knock wood) anywhere I've traveled (France, Mexico, UK, Europe in general, Cook Islands, Taiwan, Caribbean, Bahamas, etc.), even places like Fiji where they have seafood lying in a big room and just prep food from there, eaten w/ my dirty fingers. I don't usually stay in nice places but tend to hit the cheap street food/restaurants. Maybe I should thank my mom for not being hygienic. Her food practices would scare most of my friends. Granted, I don't think I'm immune to it and have had food poisoning from my mom's friend's party (everyone came down, some sick enough to be taken to the hospital) but I think I've built up some and have been lucky.

                                                                                              3. re: chowser

                                                                                                Regardless of what your parents (and many others) think, I've seen no studies that support the idea that being exposed to dangerous food pathogens when young confers immunity.

                                                                                            2. Some people consider eating to be a necessary evil of life. It doesn't make them bad people. When I'm going to someones house who fits that description. I make sure to eat right beforehand, then force enough dry inedible crap down my throat so as not to insult my host. The problems come when I'm asked for cooking advice which I can not honestly give without insulting them.

                                                                                              1. Pathogens in potentially hazardous food (like hamburger) reach the exponential growth phase after 4 hours in the danger temperature zone. It is after this time that the food may be contaminated by toxins or pathogens. This is why it is important to start the cooling process in usually less than 2 hours. Burgers out of temperature for two and a half hours and then quickly cooked will not make you sick. Although having know idea how long the burgers sat out of temperature prior to the first heating I would say you made a wise decision. As some others have stated, cooking will kill the pathogens but you can still get sick (staph) from the toxins.

                                                                                                1. I have been sick in Turkey and in Kenya from food. Fortunately nowhere else on vacation but sure have been sick in my home countries of UK and USA. Those food poisoning critters are everywhere and anywhere.

                                                                                                  1. When a host told me he had used raw eggs in a chocolate pie, I stopped eating it and he thought I was crazy, but I didn't care. I don't eat raw eggs. I won't risk my health to satisfy anyone.

                                                                                                    6 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: ChristinaBambina2

                                                                                                      That's funny. You do realize that most cakes or pies are made with raw eggs, milk and flour?

                                                                                                      I don't bake, but trying to use cooked (scrambled? fried?) eggs to make dough must be pretty tricky indeed.

                                                                                                      Of course, I eat raw eggs all the time -- my Caesar wouldn't be the same without it.

                                                                                                      1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                        going out on a bit of a limb here, but I am thinking this was an uncooked dessert? if it had been baked/cooked they wouldnt be raw.....

                                                                                                        1. re: joe777cool

                                                                                                          I believe you are right. I make a chocolate mousse pie with raw eggs. (I now use pasteurized shell eggs.)

                                                                                                          1. re: joe777cool

                                                                                                            "had used raw eggs in a chocolate pie" could mean pretty much anything, agreed. i've never had an unbaked chocolate pie, though, so..... your guess is as good as mine.

                                                                                                            1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                              A French Silk pie has raw eggs (but is oh, so good).

                                                                                                              funny side anecdote - I used to work for a guy who was a chocolate junkie - so one year for his birthday, I brought him a homemade French Silk pie -- his wife had told me that it was his favorite.

                                                                                                              He was trying (struggling) to follow a popular diet -- so when i set it down, he said "okay -- eggs...dark chocolate...cream" -- looks like Atkins-friendly to me!" before digging in.

                                                                                                              Best justification I've ever heard!

                                                                                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                Ha! Any excuse will work to have some chocolate French silk pie. It's good for you, dontcha know?

                                                                                                      2. Im a little shocked that nobody has chimed in to say that the practice described in the OP is actually not considered unsafe by the government because of the short amount of time the meat was left in the danger zone. Undesireable yes, unsafe, no. You have a 4 hour window where your food is allowed to remain between 41 degrees and 140 degrees without having to worry about microbial growth getting out of hand.

                                                                                                        As long as those burgers were brought up to proper temperature they were safe to eat! (although they were poorly cooked.

                                                                                                        9 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: twyst

                                                                                                          No, it's 2 hours, and unless the burgers are cooked well-done, the results could be very unpleasant, indeed.

                                                                                                          1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                            Thats what they are recommending to the general public as they like to leave a little leeway there. If you get certified in food safety and are taught the actual government regulations for foodservice, its 4 hours. Under servsafe guidelines (which are recognized in all 50 states) the food in the original post would not be considered compromised.

                                                                                                            Im not going to link pdf's etc, but just google servsafe and 4 hour rule.

                                                                                                            I would not recommend this as a normal practice, but its not an OMG THATS GOING TO KILL SOMEONE situation at all. I was skeptical of this too, but was shown all the science etc as part of the 30 hour recertification I just completed.

                                                                                                            1. re: twyst

                                                                                                              "Failing to reheat the food to 165 degrees F for fifteen seconds within two hours."

                                                                                                              That is one of the temperature dangers listed by servsafe.

                                                                                                              There is a huge difference between taking a chilled item from the fridge and letting it sit on the counter for 4 hours before cooking, and partially cooking an item and letting it sit for 4 hours before finishing cooking. At any rate, unless it's a huge roast that needs to come to room temp before roasting, I'm sticking with the U.S. government's recommendation.

                                                                                                              1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                hit the nail on the head - the cooking process had already started and the higher the temp of the food the quicker microbes multiply. This would gross me out as well, specifically when dealing with hamburger meat

                                                                                                          2. re: twyst

                                                                                                            let me reiterate

                                                                                                            the hamburgers were originally for a barbecue on saturday. they sat out in the open air at ambient temperature, say 85f, for about 7 hours (not kept in a cooler or anything). they then went into the fridge for 18 hours. after that they were put in a pan and brought up to about 110-120, and then left to cool to 85 for about 3 more hours on sunday afternoon.

                                                                                                            1. is this dangerous?
                                                                                                            2. as an invited guest do i have an obligation to eat whats served?
                                                                                                            2. do i have an obligation to tell other guests that the meat is questionable?

                                                                                                            1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                                                              No, this is unsafe and was not specified in the OP. The only thing stated in the OP was that he started the burgers at 3pm and then finished them at 5:30pm. I assumed we were talking about 2 and a half hours in the temp danger zone. What you have just described is a completely different situation than what you first described and is MOST DEFINITELY not safe.

                                                                                                              1. re: twyst

                                                                                                                I wouldn't eat the meat described in the OP, particularly if it was feedlot beef.

                                                                                                                1. re: mcf

                                                                                                                  I agree that its less than ideal, but when it comes to level of risk, its less risky than eating a spinach salad or having raw bean sprouts if you are worried about things like e coli (the reason most people are sketchy around ground beef). Most e coli outbreaks are from vegetables these days, not meat.

                                                                                                                  It honestly boggles my mind that people deem things like this completely unsafe, but will then eat things like sprouts and other raw veg without a second thought.

                                                                                                                  1. re: twyst

                                                                                                                    I give them a little spritz with dilute bleach spray, or a soakd and rinse, and scrub the outsides of skins of stuff before cutting in for that reason.