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Am I tempting food poisoning?
September 12, 2008 8:25 AM   Subscribe

Aw crap, I left some salmon out overnight. Is it still safe to eat?

Still in a sealed package, in a shoulder-bag in a slighly chilly room. Hoping that a food-safety expert will read this before dinnertime, GMT. I don't like food poisoning, but I don't like not eating a tasty dinner when I could eat a tasty dinner.
posted by nímwunnan to Food & Drink (34 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Raw salmon? Out of refrigeration overnight?

I would not eat it. Fish goes bad alarmingly quickly.

Sorry about your dinner.
posted by rtha at 8:27 AM on September 12, 2008


eat it, it will be fine.
posted by seawallrunner at 8:28 AM on September 12, 2008


Yeah, after like 4 hours it wouldn't be edible. Minimizing the time between fridge and pan is best. Overnight...I wouldn't eat it, but I am more paranoid about these things than most.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:29 AM on September 12, 2008


Cost of any sort of food poisoning > cost of new salmon.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:29 AM on September 12, 2008


I'm a huge proponent and fan of the "just eat it" crowd. But fish goes bad REALLY fast. I wouldn't risk it, and that's saying a lot. Though I'd definitely give it a good smell first.... juuuust in case.
posted by Grither at 8:31 AM on September 12, 2008


How's it smell? If it doesn't smell off, I would definitely eat it.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:31 AM on September 12, 2008


And properly cooked to the correct internal temperature should kill anything bad (my meat thermometer has temps. for the different meats right n it, but is not at hand). I still would buy new salmon.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:33 AM on September 12, 2008


DTMFA (musty fish)
posted by Zed_Lopez at 8:53 AM on September 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


I too usually risk it. But in this case I'd be more cautious. Give it a smell, and if you decide to go for it, overcook it. And by over cook it I mean well-done instead of the MR that Salmon should be eaten at.
posted by piedmont at 8:53 AM on September 12, 2008


Cost of any sort of food poisoning > misery of overcooked fish >cost of new salmon.
posted by Omission at 8:55 AM on September 12, 2008


when in doubt, throw it out!
posted by cvoixjames at 9:00 AM on September 12, 2008


Ack!! No! No! No! -- cooking food to the target internal temperature does not guarantee that any microbial danger is vanquished.

It's the toxins or spores that can be left behind by the bacteria, even if those bacteria get killed, that can make you ill even after cooking. Staphylococcus aureus can leave toxins behind, and Clostridium perfringens, Clostridium botulinum (yes botulism), and Bacillus cereus can leave behind heat-resistant spores.

Toss the salmon, get some nice fresh new fish. It sucks to know that your carelessness means wasted food -- and all of us have been there -- but fish goes bad too quickly to risk it.

(Oh, and just because something smells OK doesn't mean it's safe, either. Don't make me retell my engineer-eating-day-old-sandwiches-left-in-a-garage-overnight story again. He took a good sniff of those things before he ate several and spent the rest of the weekend in complete misery.)
posted by maudlin at 9:03 AM on September 12, 2008 [5 favorites]


Also a card carrying member of the cast iron stomach, fear-no-bacteria crowd but this is just asking for a world of hurt.
posted by The Straightener at 9:05 AM on September 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ooh no. Fish at room temperature overnight is asking for trouble. Toss it.

And you can still eat a tasty dinner. It will just have to consist of something other than that salmon.
posted by boomchicka at 9:08 AM on September 12, 2008


Is your 'slightly-chilly' room anywhere near as cold as a refrigerator? No? Don't eat it.
posted by pupdog at 9:08 AM on September 12, 2008


No, goddammit, it's not safe to eat.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:10 AM on September 12, 2008


Out it goes. The neighborhood is full of foxes, so it won't really go to waste. Crap.
posted by nímwunnan at 9:11 AM on September 12, 2008


This is why it's a really bad idea:
What causes Scombroid poisoning?

It is caused by a build up of histamine in certain types of fish known as the scombroid fish. These fish all have the amino acid (histidine) present. After being caught bacteria within the fish begin to convert histidine into histamine. This can occur rapidly if fish is not chilled properly after being caught.

Freezing or cooking the fish once it has been contaminated will not kill the toxin and prevent illness. In rare circumstances histamine poisoning has also been associated with cheese.

What are scombroid fish?

Scombroid fish include kahawai, mackerel, tuna, bonito and butterfly kingfish. Other fish species that are associated with scombroid poisoning include sardines, pilchards, salmon, anchovies, herring and marlin.
posted by xchmp at 9:13 AM on September 12, 2008 [3 favorites]


You will probably be fine, but it will taste bad and why risk food poisoning? Many food poisoning pathogens create toxins and while sufficient cooking should kill the pathogens, the toxins will remain. If there are enough toxins they may make you ill. This is what you may be up against. Anyway, the fish will have a bad flavor. That alone should be enough to throw it out.
posted by caddis at 9:13 AM on September 12, 2008


Out it goes.

Did you smell it first? Can you tell us how it smelled?
posted by Greg Nog at 9:24 AM on September 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


You won't get botulism from eating it. The nasties that hang out on properly handled fish are not the type that will crop up under the conditions you described. If I were in your
situation, and the fish smelled fresh, I would not hesitate to eat it.
posted by demon666 at 9:28 AM on September 12, 2008


I was in your situation a month ago - salmon left on the counter all day. I thought "what's the big deal", cooked it thoroughly and ate it.

The result? Agonizing diarrea with blood for three days until the full spectrum antibiotics took effect. The worst part was the rectal exam at the ER. Not fun.
posted by randomstriker at 9:35 AM on September 12, 2008 [3 favorites]


The nasties that hang out on properly handled fish are not the type that will crop up under the conditions you described.

This is nonsense. The "nasties" are certainly there in all fish. They are just not in sufficient quantity to create the toxins that will make you sick. This is what proper handling of fish is all about, not giving the nasties the proper environment to be nasty. Leaving fish out overnight certainly provides that environment. You did the right thing in throwing out the fish.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 9:43 AM on September 12, 2008


You have my sympathies, randomstriker. That sounds really horrible. By any chance, did the hospital do a culture and tell you what you had?

Guys, it doesn't matter if the fish smelled good. Some neglected food smells OK and doesn't make you sick. Other neglected food smells OK and makes you deathly ill. Your nose alone can lead you astray.
posted by maudlin at 9:44 AM on September 12, 2008


Yeah, it smelled fine, but the couple times I've had food poisoning didn't involve anything that smelled off. (Unless you count Taco Bell + horinca, neither of which God intended to smell good.) All this talk of toxins and the chemistry involved is just what I was looking for. I'd have thrown it out without asking if it smelled bad.
posted by nímwunnan at 10:18 AM on September 12, 2008


Funny, I eat raw wild salmon quite often and some times I will also get diarrhea the next day but I just chalk it up to the cost of doing business. It's uncomfortable but I get over it. I'm a card carrying member of the cast iron stomach club. Probably have a tapeworm the size of I95.
posted by any major dude at 10:19 AM on September 12, 2008


It's not worth the risk. Toss it and buy some new fish. Some fish like Lutefisk smells like Hell but is ferfectly safe to eat, if cooked properly.

I was in Siberia about 6 years back and stayed a lodge on the shored of Lake Baikal. While there they served me some kind of local fish, Omul, native to Lake Baikal (the deepest lake in the world and the largest freshwater lake in the world, by volume).

I ate only a tiny piece, but I suffered the most sever stomach cramps I have ever experienced in my life. Clearly, my stomach was not cut out for smoked Omul. I sat on the toilet for hours in a remote tourist shop, with concerned Russian men pounding on the door asking me if I was OK.

Nyet!
posted by camworld at 10:35 AM on September 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


For reference:
"Bacteria, or other germs, need time, food and moisture (or wetness) to grow; but they won't grow when the temperature of the food is colder than 41º F or hotter than 140º F. The temperatures in between 41º and 140º are in the "Danger Zone." Keep potentially hazardous foods out of the "Danger Zone!" For example, when food is left in the "Danger Zone", bacteria can grow fast, and make poisons that can make your customers and family very sick."
(from http://www.metrokc.gov/health/foodsfty/foodtemps.htm)

If food that spoils, such as beef, poultry, fish, etc. spends any significant amount of time in the danger zone (and with fish, that can be as little as 20 minutes), it needs to be discarded. As stated above, your job in cooking such foods is to minimize the amount of time it spends in the danger zone, meaning it should be stored below 41, heated to above 140 as quickly as possible (without burning it of course), and then if it's to be stored after cooking it needs to be brought back down below 41 as quickly as possible.

In the question, the OP's fish was in the danger zone for several hours, making it categorically and by any safe measure completely unsafe for consumption.
posted by baphomet at 12:55 PM on September 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


I cannot believe www.shouldieatthis.com doesn't exist at this point.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:29 PM on September 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


I cannot believe www.shouldieatthis.com doesn't exist at this point.

OK, just picked up the domain. Gimme some time and I'll post it to Projects. You heard it here first.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:54 PM on September 12, 2008 [4 favorites]


CPB, I suggest borrowing the your site design from http://hasthelargehadroncolliderdestroyedtheworldyet.com.
posted by vorfeed at 2:08 PM on September 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


As someone who had Scombroid poisoning two weeks ago, I DEFINITELY suggest throwing it out.
posted by Spurious at 2:23 PM on September 12, 2008


(and with fish, that can be as little as 20 minutes)

Where did you hear that? Fish has a food safety time/temperature curve that is a little quicker than some other proteins, true. But fish that would go bad in only 20 minutes out of temperature is fish that was spoiled to begin with.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 4:04 PM on September 12, 2008


I may have mis-recalled something from a server training on food safety I had years ago, I freely welcome correction on the point.
posted by baphomet at 3:46 PM on September 13, 2008


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