Bonehead left his chinese food out
September 4, 2008 1:43 PM   Subscribe

So this morning I took my lunch out of the fridge and bagged it up so I could take it to work. But I totally spaced out and left it sitting on the kitchen counter. Think itll still be good when I get home tonight?

Pork fried rice. Hot and Sour soup (with beef). My kitchen is likely to hit the mid-to-high 80's for several hours today. Has my lunch grown enough microbes to make me sick? Even after reheating? Say it aint so!
posted by ElmerFishpaw to Food & Drink (20 answers total)
not if it's been longer than four hours... (some people even say two). I wouldn't eat it. Life is too precious, and botulism too deadly.
posted by changeling at 1:51 PM on September 4, 2008

Overnight in the 50's, maybe. High 80's for several hours? That's funk heaven. It may or may not have been 'doped', but you're passing up the pleasure of eating warm leftovers to avoid an excruciating night in the bathroom. Pretty sure I know which one I'd pick.
posted by pupdog at 1:51 PM on September 4, 2008

If you're talking about reheating in a microwave, the temperature does not stay high enough long enough to kill much, if any, bacteria. Even if it did, you run the risk of ingesting toxins left behind that aren't destroyed by heat.

I routinely eat food that's been left out, but not that long or at that temperature. I don't think I would risk it.
posted by owtytrof at 1:53 PM on September 4, 2008

I refer you to my previous advice: Eat it, but before you do, write down your mefi username and password so that a relative can log in and post what happened.

But personally, no, I would not eat it. Ugh.
posted by desjardins at 1:58 PM on September 4, 2008 [2 favorites]

you run the risk of ingesting toxins left behind that aren't destroyed by heat

As is the case with the toxin produced by Bacillus cereus, commonly found in rice.

Don't eat it.
posted by hades at 2:06 PM on September 4, 2008

This might be the first time I have ever thought, "don't eat it" in response to one of these questions. My limit is pretty high, but a whole workday at 80+ degrees? If you do decide to eat it, stop and pick up some Pedialyte and real soft 2-ply on the way home, and maybe a paperback.
posted by uncleozzy at 2:12 PM on September 4, 2008

Yeah, I've eaten things that have been left unrefrigerated for too long; I cut the mold off cheese and eat it; I've eaten stuff that I didn't realize was probably moldy until AFTER I'd eaten it.

I would not eat this food.
posted by rtha at 2:17 PM on September 4, 2008

When in doubt, throw it out. It's not worth tempting fate like this, unless you feel like setting up camp in the bathroom for 48 hours.
posted by fijiwriter at 2:20 PM on September 4, 2008

Got it. It will break my heart to throw it out, but it looks like it would break a bunch of other things if i ate it. Thanks.
posted by ElmerFishpaw at 2:33 PM on September 4, 2008

I always, always, always say when in doubt, eat it.

Do not eat this.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 3:05 PM on September 4, 2008

Throw it out.
Then do something about the 80˚ temps in your kitchen. That's not good, either.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:13 PM on September 4, 2008

Throw it out.
Then do something about the 80˚ temps in your kitchen. That's not good, either.

Um, it hit 90-95 degrees (f) in Philadelphia. If one doesn't leave the home air conditioning on while at work (which is the energy- & earth-conscious course of action) then it could easily get that warm in a kitchen.
posted by polexa at 3:29 PM on September 4, 2008

I cut the mold off cheese and eat it - that is, I eat the remaining unmoldy part, not the moldy bits I've cut off!
posted by rtha at 3:37 PM on September 4, 2008

I probably would eat it for dinner if it were me. This based on the assumption that everything is in fact precooked and was put in the fridge warm. I say this thinking of vectors. Fresh from the wok it was pretty much sterile. Any bacteria in there are going to have come from the walls of the container or as dust that fell in before it was closed up.

Might you be unhappy about eating it later? Yeah, there is that possibility.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:04 PM on September 4, 2008

Did you already eat from this? I always remember that fact that when you start eating a dish, the saliva from your mouth (to your fork to the food) contains enzymes that immediately start breaking down the food. In other words, the food slowly starts to digest before you've even eaten it.

If you eat a bit of a dish and put it in the refrigerator, this should stop this pre-digestion, but not forever; hence that box of Chinese food you half-finished that rots after a week in the fridge. Of course putting food in the freezer will stop it...until you take it out again.
posted by zardoz at 7:31 PM on September 4, 2008

I wouldn't go anywhere near this food. Rice has a huge surface area, and is tasty lovely stuff for a colony of evil bacteria.

(As for moldy cheese - heard of blue cheese? People can eat lot's of kinds of mold without any trouble, we just find it squeemish for the most part.)
posted by The Monkey at 8:15 PM on September 4, 2008

(Um, yeah, I've heard of blue cheese. I was talking about cheeses that aren't supposed to be moldy. And I've eaten those, too, sometimes, even when moldy. Don't eat cheese with pink mold, though. Bad. Ungood. Don't do it. Blue mold, white mold, blackish mold - fine; cut it off and eat the rest. Pink mold, no. Toss the whole piece. This according to my boss & buyer when I worked in cheese at Whole Foods.)
posted by rtha at 4:42 AM on September 5, 2008

posted by swbarrett at 6:52 PM on September 6, 2008

rtha, I didn't mean to imply that you were gastronomically incompetent. I just meant to emphasise that we have a lot more trouble eating bacteria than mold.

It's a wonderful cognitive dissonance: I hate hate HATE mold, but I love a creamy, tart, ripe blue cheese.

I wish I could edit my last post, only to get rid of that apostrophe though. Little bastard of a thing. How did it get there? I swear it wasn't me. (It was me.)
posted by The Monkey at 8:08 AM on September 7, 2008

true dat, The Monkey. No worries.

Also, apostrophes sneak in like mold - you don't realize it's there sometimes until you've eaten it/hit post.

posted by rtha at 8:23 PM on September 7, 2008

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