Quinoa, Tuna, Salmon - can I eat it?
January 20, 2009 1:21 AM   Subscribe

I left a mixture of boiled quinoa, canned tuna and canned salmon out over night. Can I still eat it?

I boiled about a half cup of quinoa with powdered vegetable broth yesterday at lunch time, then mixed in a can of tuna and two cans of salmon. I put the mixture in a covered, unsealed Tupperware container, but forgot to put that in the fridge.

Data points:
Mixture was left unrefrigerated for ~20 hours
This is at my office, and no one other than I has been in my office for at least a week (co-workers are on vacation, working at home, or out sick)
If I decide to eat it, I'll microwave it first, heating it up thoroughly

So, can I eat it?
posted by syzygy to Food & Drink (25 answers total)
I would.
posted by Cantdosleepy at 1:30 AM on January 20, 2009

Best answer: Fish at room temperature for 20 hours? No way. Not even with cooking, and especially not with a microwave, that heats unevenly.
posted by zippy at 1:37 AM on January 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

boiled quinoa, canned tuna and canned salmon

Bleck. I don't know if I'd eat it even if it was fresh.

Toss it. At most you're out $3.43 for ingredients.
posted by wfrgms at 1:46 AM on January 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

I definitely would not.
posted by rhapsodie at 1:50 AM on January 20, 2009

Response by poster: wfgrms: Toss it. At most you're out $3.43 for ingredients.

More like €10.00 - the 2 cans of salmon cost €4 each...
posted by syzygy at 1:51 AM on January 20, 2009

No way - I wouldn't touch it.
posted by lottie at 1:56 AM on January 20, 2009

While I'm usually in the eat-it camp, this sounds horrendous.

Don't eat it.
posted by Netzapper at 1:58 AM on January 20, 2009

You know what? We need a few benchmarks. It's all very well people mouthing off about aged fish and mushrooms but what proof do we really have? So, now we've got a rough template (salmon + tuna + room temperature for 20 hours), I think you should eat it, and post your thoughts on your intestines. That way we can put it into some kind of database and before you know it there will be definitive answers to all these "should I eat it?" questions. The western world wastes enough food as it is. Anybody here seen Darwin's Nightmare? Fucking harden up.

Me, I wouldn't fucking touch it. If it was just tuna, then possibly, but salmon will turn on you like that.
posted by turgid dahlia at 1:59 AM on January 20, 2009

Response by poster: I had hoped that the canning process would have limited the salmon's tendency to spoil. After doing a little research and hearing the responses here, I'm going to throw out my mixture and start over.

Some potentially interesting URLs I came across:
Can you store canned salmon in the fridge or freezer after opening?
...As with the handling of any perishable food, however, canned salmon should not be left at room temperature for unnecessary periods of time after opening.
Scombroid Poisoning
...Occurring minutes to hours after eating certain fish which has been allowed to thaw and spoil, “Scombroid Poisoning” can produce facial flushing, sweating, upper body rashes and itching, mouth sensations, palpitations, abdominal cramps, vomiting and diarrhea. It is usually self-limited...but it can be life-threatening...
...Once histamine is produced in the thawing process, it is inapparent and it cannot be inactivated by cooking, smoking or frying...
...Avoidance requires prompt and constant refrigeration to 0 degrees C. from the catch to the serving...
Spoiled Salmon (PDF)
It was not the canned salmon that poisoned the Stautz sufferers, for they ate it with impunity the first day; it was the salmon that was spoiled by 48 hours' exposer to the hot and humid atmosphere that made them sick. Remember that.
posted by syzygy at 2:26 AM on January 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Do not mess around with fish. Say goodbye.
posted by monkey!knife!fight! at 2:46 AM on January 20, 2009

I'd still eat it.
posted by Cantdosleepy at 2:51 AM on January 20, 2009

Fish? I don't think so. All I can say is if you do eat it, have a couple of tabs of Benadryl handy in case you start having a severe histamine reaction.

Just remembering the time I started going into anaphalactic shock after getting scombroid poisoning at a seafood buffet is enough to make my head swim and my palms sweat. I wouldn't wish that on anyone.

Here's a tip: you know what's in an epi-pen, the emergency treatment of choice for anaphalaxis? Epinephrine, i.e. adrenaline. So if you ever find yourself the victim of food poisoning, exercise your ass off until the ambulance gets there to jack up your own adrenaline. I'm talking running, jumping jacks, air boxing all at once, whatever you can think of. It really works, and just might have saved my life. (Of course, realizing you might be on the cusp of dying has a way of getting the old adrenaline pumping too, so who knows...) Either way, it's something to keep in mind.

Carry your Benadryl, folks.
posted by aquafortis at 2:52 AM on January 20, 2009

No. And why would you even want to?
posted by watercarrier at 3:48 AM on January 20, 2009

Well, here's the way I look at it: Would you pay €10.00 to not get sick? I would. Throw it away.
posted by horsemuth at 5:22 AM on January 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Ok - I flushed it down the toilet and started again from scratch. Thanks for the advice everyone...

wfgrms: Bleck. I don't know if I'd eat it even if it was fresh.

Do you like curries? I use that combination as the base for a sort of curry soup. I add brocolli, cauliflower, carrots, vegetable juice, curry paste, hot Indian pickles, yoghurt and hot sauce to the base ingredients to make a pretty tasty lunch...
posted by syzygy at 6:32 AM on January 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

I would definitely have eaten that.
posted by Cantdosleepy at 6:48 AM on January 20, 2009

Curries... That explains why you weren't surprised by the smell. Fish is pretty safe that way. Even if kept that time in the fridge.
posted by Namlit at 7:21 AM on January 20, 2009

This must be more common in the USA as I have never heard of Scombroid Poisoning in the UK or Ireland (background medical and just asked my anaesthetist hubby who works in the ICU, nope, never heard of it!!!).

Many thanks to Askme for filling this gap in our knowledge. Just wondering if again, the means of production is different as with most meats, or if it is commonly missed here as an allegic reaction to seafood. am about to pubMed for UK or European articles on this.

(Oh and poster I would have eaten it based on the fact that the fish was canned, and therefore effectively cooked, rather than thawed)
posted by Wilder at 7:38 AM on January 20, 2009

Known here as HFP, Hystamine Fish Poisoning and there was a very recent case in Scotland in December so I think we'll hear a lot more about it soon.
posted by Wilder at 7:47 AM on January 20, 2009

Here are the benchmarks:

If something perishable has been in the temperature danger zone, which is 40F to 140F, for more than 4 hours in total (meaning, 1 hour in the car on the way home, 1 hour during preparation, 2 hours after cooking adds up to 4, no matter what happened in the interim), it has the POTENTIAL to be troublesome. WILL it AUTOMATICALLY make you sick? No. COULD it? Yes. The rationale is that if there are bugs in the food, that is enough time for them to:

1- multiply to levels that your immune system can't easily knock out.
2- More importantly, be alive long enough and in a great enough quantity to produce various toxins that will put a hurting on you.

See, that's the thing- many food borne illnesses aren't caused by the bugs themselves, but by the toxins they produce. And toxins aren't destroyed in any appreciable amount by cooking.

And bugs aren't killed by refrigeration- just slowed down. Many aren't even killed by normal freezing. That's why the time limit is additive.

The other issue is, what bugs the food might pick up during preparation. Your sealed tupperware container prevents bugs from falling in from the air. But are you sure it was STERILE when you put the food in? Could a couple of buggers gotten in there? Well, then, 20 hours at room temperature is plenty of time for them to multiply.

Note: this does not account for the probabilities that your food has, or doesn't have, these buggers in it. If it does, following these guidelines will keep you mostly well. The problem is, you can't tell. The stories of "OMFZG, just eat it, one time in college I ate week old pizza and it didn't kill me" are probably true. But only by chance.

If you follow these guidlines (which come from food service sanitation rules), you reduce the chances down to acceptable levels.
posted by gjc at 8:13 AM on January 20, 2009 [3 favorites]

Wait, you flushed it down the toilet? Am I the only one who thinks that's weird?
posted by booknerd at 8:53 AM on January 20, 2009

It's one of those things that you either have heard of or NEVER HEARD OF WHAT ARE YOU EVEN SAYING, booknerd. It seems to be more common outside of the US and in cities with pest problems -- you don't want to attract mice/whatever by putting food in the garbage can, so you flush it instead.
posted by kate blank at 10:20 AM on January 20, 2009

I found the flushing strange too, initially. But if I didn't have a garbage disposal in my sink and there wasn't a way to get the trash out of my house quickly, I could see doing it (especially if, as kate blanks, not just the smell but pests might be an issue).
posted by Herkimer at 2:44 PM on January 20, 2009

Great maybe that's why I have mice in my house. :(
posted by booknerd at 4:45 PM on January 20, 2009

Response by poster: Yeah, over here in Yerp they don't have the technology required to build dispose-alls.

Seriously, though, dispose-alls are pretty rare here. Garbage is taken out once a week at my office (Tuesdays, which was the day of my question, and garbage had already been taken out that day). I didn't want to have quinoa, tuna and salmon rotting in the garbage can for a whole week.
posted by syzygy at 6:37 AM on January 21, 2009

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