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Meatball safety :)

Hi Chowhounds. Apologies for introducing myself with a dull and icky topic, but this is the only central location other than perhaps GardenWeb where I have seen sane and intelligent discussions about food safety.

The question: I've got some turkey meatballs in the fridge that were made in-house by a fairly reliable and VERY busy upscale/gourmet food market. They were bought six days ago (11/7). I live alone so I'm a little chaotic about eating. Trying to do better lately, because I cannot afford to throw away pricey prepared food, but obviously, I screwed up again.

If I reheat these meatballs VERY thoroughly in my steamer or by simmering them in broth, do you think I'll survive eating them? :)


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  1. I can't say whether you're going to get foodborne illness if you eat your meatballs, but the cooking method by which you bring them to somewhere above 145 degrees doesn't matter, just that they be cooked through to that temperature.

    How much time did they spend between 40 and 145 degrees? That's the thing you need to look out for.

    1. Did the meatballs have a "consume by" date on them, perchance?

      5 Replies
      1. re: pinehurst

        Hi, my turkey meatballs were purchased from a big array of prepared foods under glass at the market (operated like a deli counter; the staff takes your order and packages and weighs the food). They weren't from the hot trays though—they were in the refrigerated section of the takeout foods. This takeout area runs almost the entire length of the store and extends to prepackaged stuff in the aisles; it's a huge part of their business and they move tons of prepared food. The night before Hurricane Sandy hit here, when other places had folded up their tents, both this place and its sister location 10 blocks up had lines outside and an employee stationed at the entrance to keep too many people from going in at once. A Trader Joe's kind of scene :).

        Unknown history is always a big red safety flag with food we didn't prepare ourselves, of course, and even with some constituents of home-cooked dishes, but I would say chances are these meatballs didn't spend much time in the temperature danger zone.

        As for sell-by or best-by dating, the prepackaged foods at this market do bear such a date on each container, but when you order from the day's featured foods at the counter, as with these meatballs, no best-by date is calculated. The label printed out from the scale only shows the date of sale.

        1. re: fuzzyscorpio

          I wouldn't think that these would still be good after a week. They certainly are no longer fresh and at their best even if not toxic.

          "pricey prepared food" - Yeah, but you didn't get that, you have turkey meatballs.

          1. re: FrankJBN

            Frank: Everything's pricey, compared with the cost of smart home preparation and storage, if you've been unemployed for three years. :)

            1. re: FrankJBN

              p.s.— not a week yet; barely six days.

              1. re: fuzzyscorpio

                Since they were cooked before they were sold to you.....assuming they have been refrigerated since you returned home from the market.....then I would have no problem eating them if they did not smell offensive. Guidelines are just that ...guidelines. Everyone's refrigerator is different in how they set the temperature inside. If the temperature is under 38*, the food will last longer than if it were at 40-42*. The one thing that accelerates food deterioration is the introduction of bacteria....usually from your hands. If the meatballs (or sauce) touched anyone's hands. then that would be a consideration....for example, let's say when you got home you reached into the package to have a taste of either the meatballs or sauce without using any utensil, but rather your fingers..

        2. StillTasty.com will give you a good guideline. Most prepared, cooked, refrigerated meat product will keep 5 days with no problem. Does that mean 6 days and its deadly toxic? Doubtful. Like expiration dates, one day past doesn't mean instant spoilage, illness, and death. Sometimes people are silly about that.

          Personally though, if I am concerned about it, I can't enjoy it...so out it goes anyway :)

          2 Replies
          1. re: sedimental

            I refer to stilltasty.com all the time, but they do adhere closely to the government guidelines, which necessarily err on the conservative side.

            1. re: sedimental

              < Personally though, if I am concerned about it, I can't enjoy it...so out it goes anyway :) >
              Perfectly stated, per sedimental.

              And another thought: would I risk this with my husband/sister/friend? If not, don't I deserve the same protection?

              And welcome, fuzzs. :)

            2. There are very few things I'd eat after six days in the fridge. (I don't mean veggies/fruits.)

              4 Replies
                1. re: Njchicaa

                  Thanks everyone. Although your feedback tilts toward 'no' and I appreciate the reasons, I'm going to risk it. The chopped up meatballs are simmering in chicken broth as I type this.

                  In my young adult years I used to make bolognese meat sauce from Marcella Hazan's recipe a lot. Her cookbook stated that the sauce could safely be kept in the fridge for five days. I followed that and never got burned. (Yes, I know this is turkey and I think poultry is nastier than beef, but chicken more so than turkey, and that's a whole 'nother conversation anyway.) As @Sedimental said (does @ work in here? :)), "does that mean 6 days and it's deadly toxic? Doubtful." It's a borderline case, I know.

                  I also know, all too well, how awful it can be to lose a bet like this one, because I was sick as a dog from foodborne illness about 8 years ago. Never will forget that—especially the part where I was treated with fluoroquinolone antibiotics and suffered ill effects from those for many months. Guess what the pathogen's medium was? Takeout chicken soup from a super-premium national chain grocer. It can happen from any source, and it was partly my bad, because when I got it back to my office (this was still within my 35 years of steady paychecks) it was apparent to me that it wasn't as hot as it should have been. Maybe I should've nuked it but meats and microwave don't mix as far as I'm concerned. And the horse was probably out of the barn already, in terms of non-heat-susceptible toxic substances the evil microbes left behind.

                  As I often do, I'll toss in a truckload of raw garlic after this slop is off the heat and hope that it encounters any bacteria or viruses in some dark alley of my gut and delivers them a knockout punch. Not foolproof insurance of course, but it can't hurt. I recommend it. :)

                  @DuchessNukem, thanks for the welcome! Glad to be among you.

                    1. re: JeffroCGC

                      Or have someone else let us know if you don't!

              1. They're fine. I'd eat them.

                1. Two things to consider...

                  The sniff test doesn't detect many food poisoning bugs.

                  Many food poisoning toxins are not inactivated by heating.

                  A lot hinges, as others have said, on the temp of your fridge and the amount of time the balls spent above proper storage temps eg at the store and the trip home.

                  Its probably safe.....

                  1. LOL @JeffroCGC and @Shellhead. I'm eating it now… tastes yummy… of course, with abundant garlic, some tomato paste, some frozen peas and good whole-wheat penne thrown in, plus generous amounts of Parmesan/Romano, what's not to like? With any luck, I'll return to the thread tomorrow or so to confirm that I'm not hospitalized or en route to the crematorium. ;)

                    @sal_acid, certainly true about the sniff test. I'm sure it produces a lot of false negatives, especially with food that's been cooked and spiced.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: fuzzyscorpio

                      I'm on the downhill side of forty now and have lived all my life by the "week in the fridge" rule for prepared foods. I wouldn't even sweat this one for a second. Enjoy!

                    2. Wonder what happened to @Shellhead's funny comments? Hope he or she didn't misread my "LOL." Anyway… reporting in as requested, alive and reasonably well ~24h later. :) @MGZ, I like your rule!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: fuzzyscorpio

                        Thanks for reporting in, glad it was uneventful!

                      2. Have you ever had a really bad case of food poisoning? IMO if the meat balls were in my fridge I'd unfortunately have to toss them. There will be lots of occasions to eat more meat balls. Just not the ones in question. Just my opinion.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Puffin3

                          Like any of these myriad threads about food safety, the ultimate outcome is going to come down to how weak and compromised the consumer of the food in question is.

                          1. re: MGZ

                            Exactly. I'd feed the meatballs to my husband, no problem. Wouldn't feed them to myself - combination of immunosuppressants (my last sinus infection took over a month of antibiotics to fix...and I think that it's back) and the fact that I don't like meatballs.

                            1. re: jw615

                              I'll never take antibiotics again without pairing them with probiotics.
                              Hope you get rid of that sinus infection soon....:).

                        2. Seems like on a regular bases someone puts up a thread asking if some food they have "forgotten" etc is safe to eat. I'm not sure this is such a good idea. We don't have any idea what the hygiene level of the kitchen is. Nor that of the poster. Are there six dogs and cats running over the counters? When was the last time the fridge was scrubbed down etc etc. I'm not going to offer anymore opinions as to what some strangers food consumption should or not should be. Just saying. I'd hate to offer my opinion only to find out the poster ended up in the hospital..or worse based on a few general comments from someone in doubt about eating something or not.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Puffin3

                            I think people sometimes overreact and throw stuff out that's still good. I made a funny comment that was deleted (rolleyes) about letting tuna sandwiches "age" in my locker way back in high school. Yes, it was something I really did. Never got sick once. Never.

                            On the other hand, if someone thinks that something in their fridge has "gone south", I'm certainly not going to chide them for throwing it out. That's for the individual to decide. As for me, if something is in the fridge a week later (sans mold) I wouldn't bat an eye at eating it.

                            1. re: JeffroCGC

                              I think, for those of us who've experienced some very bad intestinal bacterial infections caused by bad food, we're more likely to be more diligent.
                              I'm pretty careful about food....I almost died from unrefrigerated shrimp in Mexico years ago, when I was young and stupid, and I will NEVER go through that again if I can help it.

                          2. Baked boneless, skinless chicken breast is my go-to staple for a variety of meals that I routinely prepare. I usually bake it up in large batches, and it's not unusual for me to still have quantities on hand after a week. I've been doing this for years and have never had a problem with either spoilage or sickness.

                            I'm sure your meatballs are probably fine at 6 days after prep, as long as they've been refrigerated the whole time.