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Left my lunch on the counter before work. Safe to eat?

Crankyrobot Jan 8, 2014 12:00 PM

I'm super frustrated. I made a huge pot of chicken chili (with shredded chicken and chicken broth) last night and froze a bunch of leftovers for lunch. One serving was in a tightly-closed tupperware in the fridge overnight.

Anyway, this morning, I packed the one that was in the fridge in a lunch bag and FORGOT TO TAKE IT when I rushed out the door. Ugh! Anyway, I am wondering if it will be safe to eat when I get home tonight. It'll have been out at room temperature (which is not too warm) for 9-10 hours at that point.

Would it be ok to boil, or should I not risk it?

  1. t
    tastesgoodwhatisit Jan 10, 2014 12:00 AM

    Unless you've got an unseasonable heat wave right now, I'd heat it thoroughly and eat it with no qualms. My husband would probably eat it as is, no heating necessary.

    1. ttoommyy Jan 9, 2014 10:10 AM

      I never refrigerate my lunch that I eat at work (the refrigerators are always jam packed and dirty). I pack it at about 6:30am and by the time I eat at work it is anywhere from noon to 3pm. This means I have eaten many, many lunches that went unrefrigerated for anywhere from 5.5-8.5 hours and I am still alive to write about it. What's a few more hours? I would eat it. :)

      1. bagelman01 Jan 9, 2014 08:15 AM

        When in Doubt, THROW IT OUT!!!

        One serving is not worth potential gastrointestinal nastiness.

        2 Replies
        1. re: bagelman01
          MGZ Jan 9, 2014 08:27 AM

          Ugghhh. Just ugghhh, ugghhh, ugghhh!

          1. re: bagelman01
            Harters Jan 9, 2014 09:40 AM

            Exactly - couldnt agree more.

            But, then , I'd be in no doubt that it was going to be OK to eat.

          2. ipsedixit Jan 9, 2014 08:10 AM

            I use my personal egg rule.

            So, 9-10 hours? Yes, I would eat.

            In fact, I might leave it on the counter another hour or two. A bit of fermentation does wonders for chicken chili.

            2 Replies
            1. re: ipsedixit
              seamunky Jan 9, 2014 02:56 PM

              OK, I'll bite. What's your personal egg rule, ipse?

              1. re: seamunky
                ipsedixit Jan 9, 2014 06:32 PM


            2. MGZ Jan 9, 2014 08:06 AM

              As jpc so eloquently answered, "Eat it." Sh*t, if it's tasty, I'd eat it cold off a dirty floor. Then again, I'm a 'hound - I sniff tails, howl at moons, catch frisbees in my teeth, and drink from bowls. What I don't do is succumb to the fear or weaknesses of others. Facts are, life ends and the strong survive.

              1 Reply
              1. re: MGZ
                Crankyrobot Jan 9, 2014 08:13 AM

                I have never been more disappointed in myself. I'm usually pretty hardcore as far as this stuff goes. Now it's the second day...hmmmm

              2. h
                Harters Jan 9, 2014 08:04 AM

                I'd be eating it without a second thought.

                1. foodcompletesme Jan 9, 2014 07:58 AM

                  so….what did you end up deciding? what was the outcome?

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: foodcompletesme
                    Crankyrobot Jan 9, 2014 08:10 AM

                    Well, I decided not to eat it. I probably normally just would have eaten it without thinking about it, but the problem is, I started thinking about it and overanalyzing. It's in my refrigerator because I couldn't bring myself to dump it (though I will when I get home tonight), and I know I'd probably be fine, but considering I'm going on a 10-day trip next week, I decided not to risk it.

                    R.I.P. chili :(

                  2. C. Hamster Jan 9, 2014 07:48 AM

                    Boiling it doesn't necessarily make it safe.

                    I would not eat it.

                    1. j
                      jpc8015 Jan 8, 2014 09:15 PM

                      Eat it.

                      1. Monica Jan 8, 2014 08:52 PM

                        I always eat food left out on counter for overnight all the time with no problem. How did people live without refrigerator before?

                        1. a
                          autumm Jan 8, 2014 08:24 PM

                          Depends on how much time you would be willing to spend visiting your friendly commode if things aren't quite right.

                          If it were 3-4 hours, I would, a whole work day, no unless you have PTO to burn.

                          1. EWSflash Jan 8, 2014 07:45 PM

                            I think if you heat it to a low boil for ten minutes, you're golden. I wouldn't even give it that much, probably, but you can.

                            1. foodcompletesme Jan 8, 2014 04:40 PM

                              I hate to waste good food too, but it is not worth the risk.

                              I went away for a few days over the holidays and when I returned I realized I had left a final serving of homemade chicken tikka masala (a from scratch, involved recipe representing a lot of time & great taste) in the refrigerator.

                              In my heart, I knew it was past it's safe date, but hated to waste it. I did eat some but regretted it (how do I say this delicately? your intestines will let you know).
                              You don't want to have a negative association with chicken chili forever because of eating a bad serving.

                              Be safe, crankyrobot, be safe!

                              1. f
                                foodieX2 Jan 8, 2014 04:33 PM

                                Another who wouldn't think twice and I wouldn't "boil" it either

                                1. BananaBirkLarsen Jan 8, 2014 01:53 PM

                                  Give it a good boil and dig in! A few bacteria only improve the immune system.

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: BananaBirkLarsen
                                    nat8199 Jan 8, 2014 04:31 PM

                                    I totally agree! I would eat it without hesitation.

                                    1. re: BananaBirkLarsen
                                      GH1618 Jan 8, 2014 09:04 PM

                                      Most likely it will be ok, but this advice is not sound, for two reasons.

                                      1. Some food poisoning is caused by toxins produced by bacteria, and some of those toxins are heat-stable. If the bacteria are present and allowed to multiply, reheating will kill the bacteria but not necessarily destroy the toxin.

                                      2. While an infection will train a healthy immune system to respond to a recurrence of the same infection more quickly, this will not protect a person from illness if pathogens are present in large quantities. Only a minor infection is necessary to build immunity, so there is no point in getting sick by ingesting large quantities of a pathogen as a strategy to "improve the immune system." Although most food poisoning is not fatal, a serious case can be, particularly for those with weak immune systems.

                                      1. re: GH1618
                                        BananaBirkLarsen Jan 9, 2014 08:35 AM

                                        Nevertheless, I eat food I've left on the counter all the time, and have only gotten food poisoning once in my life, and that was from a restaurant. I am aware that "there is no point in getting sick by ingesting large quantities of a pathogen as a strategy 'to improve the immune system.'" I was being a bit facetious. People take this stuff soooo seriously, and rightly so if you're working in the food industry (which I do, and I would never sell someone something that had sat at room temperature for any length of time, but boy would I eat it!) There is, I feel, a huge benefit to looking at most of life's dangers lightly. I see far more people sick from stress than I do from the many food-related dangers of the world.

                                        But here's another dilemma: I have a friend who swears by eating food she finds on the ground. Outside. Often covered in dirt. God knows how long it's been there. I won't do it, because of the gritty feel in my mouth, but she never gets sick.

                                        1. re: BananaBirkLarsen
                                          foodcompletesme Jan 9, 2014 11:39 AM

                                          omg just omg
                                          your friend should start dumpster diving for food too

                                          1. re: foodcompletesme
                                            Crankyrobot Jan 9, 2014 12:18 PM

                                            I have enjoyed the fruits of a good dumpster dive. But no, not off the ground. No.

                                            1. re: Crankyrobot
                                              Shrinkrap Jan 15, 2014 12:49 AM

                                              Please don't feel bad. How can that help? I have eaten, and not eaten stuff, largely based on "science".

                                              Based on "science", for a $3.00/ pound chicken, it seems hard to justify eating something I wonder will make me too sick to work. Even if you lost the price of a chicken, and some labor.

                                              I own a small business, and just 15 minutes of not being too sick to do what I do well, would cost me more than a few mediocre chickens.

                                              For some cheeses,some pastrie, foi gras, scallops, fresh shrimp, different odds.

                                    2. r
                                      Raffles Jan 8, 2014 01:40 PM

                                      2 hour rule for me, maybe a bit longer if I know the history of the food. Reheating might kill some of those nasties too...

                                      Too many experiences with coworkers bringing in leftovers from parties and events....scary stuff...

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Raffles
                                        nothingswrong Jan 9, 2014 11:05 AM

                                        Me too. Especially with chicken, I just wouldn't chance it. Chicken is one of the foods I just won't mess around with.

                                        ETA: If I was OP, why not just pull one of the frozen ones and eat that? Why risk a horrid bout of food poisoning when there are perfectly good batches on hand?

                                      2. i
                                        Isolda Jan 8, 2014 01:33 PM

                                        I'd get rid of this one serving and just be thankful the rest is in the freezer. Even if it's safe to eat, it's probably no longer fresh, so why eat food that isn't delicious?

                                        1. WhatsEatingYou Jan 8, 2014 01:29 PM

                                          This is how I think about it when I am in such a situation... throwing out the food and wasting the money/effort that went into it is worth avoiding the potential hospital bill. I would not eat it!

                                          1. j
                                            jaykayen Jan 8, 2014 12:28 PM

                                            It will be fine.

                                            1. GretchenS Jan 8, 2014 12:20 PM

                                              Personally I would not think twice about eating it.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: GretchenS
                                                Crankyrobot Jan 8, 2014 12:26 PM

                                                Normally, I wouldn't either! But then I, you know, started thinking about it haha.

                                                1. re: Crankyrobot
                                                  cstr Jan 9, 2014 12:30 PM

                                                  It was completely cooked. Ever leave out pasta and sauce? Next time just skip out of work!

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