Will this dressing be safe at room temperature?
June 16, 2011 6:06 PM   Subscribe

Why would bottled dressing with these ingredients need to be refrigerated before opening? Is it a safety issue or a quality issue?

Here are the ingredients: filtered water, distilled vinegar, HFCS, soybean oil, sesame oil, maltodextrin, salt, <2% of xanthan gum, spices, dehydrated onion, caramel color, and calcium disodium and EDTA.

I know that sesame oil can go rancid pretty easily, but I think there's only a small amount of it in there. And I don't know, it seems like all that sugar and vinegar would stabilize the dressing somehow?

This is a dressing that's not available where I live and I want some shipped to me. It's going to cost enough based on weight, so I want to avoid overnight shipping and/or ice packs, etc. Will I be safe if this stuff remains at room temperature for 3 or 4 days?
posted by peep to Food & Drink (11 answers total)
IANAS(cientist) but it seems that any dressing sold without refrigeration in the grocery store (as are most in the US anyway) would be fine at room temperature until it is opened. That's what we do in our house anyway - leave unopened dressings in our pantry until their first use. The only worrisome thing that I can think of is if the shipping involves extreme temperatures.
posted by Rain Man at 6:18 PM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: This dressing is sold in the refrigerated section in stores, and it says "Keep refrigerated" on the bottle. I just want to know how necessary it is. The manufacturer sent me some free as a courtesy (I was being a squeaky wheel about not being able to find it locally), and it arrived overnight UPS in a refrigerated box. I can't get anymore that way. I was hoping it was just overkill and I'd be OK for a couple of days.
posted by peep at 6:33 PM on June 16, 2011

wow, really? I don't see *anything* in there that needs, NEEDS to be refrigerated before opening. I'm thinking quality issue. I have sesame oil on my unrefrigerated shelf (north florida - very hot) that, sure, doesn't taste as awesome as it could, but is by no means dangerous.

btw, all shipping involves extreme temperatures. could you order a small batch for starters, to see if it tastes ok under those conditions? I do not believe you will die.
posted by toodleydoodley at 6:38 PM on June 16, 2011

I think you should refrigerate it. The dressing, while having ingredients that should protect against bacteria, will separate out. This will leave a layer of oil across the top and all of the sugar/acid ingredients below. Now, you have opened the bottle and poured some off. There is a small amount of probable bacteria entry when you do that. Those germs will settle onto the top of the oil. The bottle, at room temperature becomes a growing medium. Refrigeration does not kill bacteria, but it radically slows down the multiplication of them.
posted by Old Geezer at 7:02 PM on June 16, 2011

I don't see anything unusual in there either. I'd be curious to hear what the manufacturer has to say about it - they paid for refrigerated shipping of a free sample so they seem pretty serious about it, but it doesn't make sense to me. Where would it ship from? Some place like, I dunno, Japan where food safety regs are different?
posted by Quietgal at 7:30 PM on June 16, 2011

Response by poster: Manufacturer is in the midwest (MO?) and I'm in Portland, OR. So this is a matter of 24 hours vs. maybe 72 or 96?
posted by peep at 7:35 PM on June 16, 2011

Well besides getting a better dressing, the ingredients will not go bad quickly unless you keep it in a warm place. It shouldn't separate out because of the xanthan gum which is a thickening agent and there is special term for it to enable liquids to remain emulsified. You still want to go through the dressing quickly after opening and not have it linger.
posted by jadepearl at 8:06 PM on June 16, 2011

In that case, eh, I wouldn't worry about it.

But I'd still like to hear why they insist on refrigeration before opening - I wonder if it's some kind of marketing hoohah, like the dressing is so natural and precious it has to be handled with kid gloves (despite the xanthan gum thickener/stabilizer and the EDTA preservative).
posted by Quietgal at 8:45 PM on June 16, 2011

It might be a perception thing, much like Sunny D and Kraft Singles don't require refrigeration, they sell better when there's the false sense of authenticity seeing them next to similar products that do need to be refridgerated.
posted by furtive at 9:43 PM on June 16, 2011 [3 favorites]

must be quality issue. agreed that those ingredients are pretty stable. i'd eat it without any fear.
posted by honey badger at 8:35 AM on June 17, 2011

Seems like it would definitely be safe at room temperature, but it may be that the manufacturers were worried about some of the hotter temperatures it might encounter during shipping this time of year-- it can get pretty hot in the back of a truck and that might produce more a problem than shipping it unrefrigerated would in, say, December. Still-- why not try it now and if it looks okay, you're good, and if not, you can order more in the fall?

Then again, that might also just be their default way of shipping things, such that it would be more expensive for them to go to the trouble of shipping it unrefrigerated. At my old work we did a lot of overnight shipping via Fed Ex, which meant we got a great discount on overnight and not as good on their other services-- it was sometimes barely more expensive to ship something faster, and our systems made it easier to do that rather than going to the trouble of filling out the extra paperwork to save a few dollars.
posted by dizziest at 7:29 AM on June 20, 2011

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