Should I eat this?
April 22, 2013 10:45 AM   Subscribe

Another one of metafilter's favorite topics. Fridge left open since 7am (CDT) this morning. Just discovered 20 minutes ago, so approximately 5 hours ago. It was only left open a crack because one of the drawers was part way open. Is everything a totally loss? Some things are still cool to the touch.

The light bulb in the fridge warmed everything up on the top shelf to a significant degree. We tossed any meat and dairy on the top shelf. We kept bread, figuring it would be fine. Also kept some chopped walnuts, which I put in the fridge knowing it would be a while before I got to using them. The next shelf down things were cool, but not cold, so tossed dairy there, but kept pickles and pickle relish. The shelf below that, things were actually cold to the touch.

The door, where condiments are, were varying levels of cool and cold. It's things like soy sauce, taco sauce, tartar sauce, mayo, jelly, dressing, mustard, lemon juice, more dressing. Oh, and the butter on the top shelf on the door is warm, but I think butter is okay if it gets warm, right?

My gut is that we toss everything. But really can't afford to start over, at least not this week. What is the likelihood of any of it being safe to eat?
posted by [insert clever name here] to Food & Drink (25 answers total)
Other than the stuff warmed from the light, I would keep everything. Most likely the worst thing to come out of this will the electricity used as the fridge tried to keep itself cold.

Most of the stuff on the door would be fine even if you kept it in a cabinet.
posted by bondcliff at 10:49 AM on April 22, 2013 [3 favorites]

I think that you've done a pretty good job of dividing what to keep and toss already. If I were running a kitchen open to the public, I'd be dumping a bit more. As it is, I think you have covered everything. The jars and bottles of sauces that you mentioned have sufficient preservatives. The butter is also fine.

By the way, I recommend that you not store bread in the refrigerator. That will actually make it go stale faster than out on the counter. If you want to store bread long-term, freeze it.
posted by Tanizaki at 10:50 AM on April 22, 2013 [3 favorites]

No, don't toss everything. I'm of the opinion that you don't need to toss anything.

Let your nose be your guide, but I'd eat that.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:52 AM on April 22, 2013 [11 favorites]

I would eat everything in there, including what you already threw out. Not at once, of course.
posted by last night a dj saved my life at 10:54 AM on April 22, 2013 [26 favorites]

do you have a thermometer? You could take a reading of any soft dairy (yogurt, cream cheese) or dressings and see if it's within range (legal is 41 I would say under 50 is fine.)

Commercial mayo kept at room temp that long is actually considered fine as well as butter at room temp. All other condiments you mentioned should be okay after five hours at room temp so I think you're good.
posted by itsonreserve at 10:55 AM on April 22, 2013

Another vote for "I'd keep everything" (that wasn't obviously weird or stinky). Most things are kept in the fridge to prolong their shelf life, vs. keep them from spoiling immediately.

Yogurt should be fine. Milk should be fine. Certainly all the condiments are fine. Butter is more than fine; butter goes in the fridge to keep it from melting, not to keep it from spoiling per se.
posted by anastasiav at 10:59 AM on April 22, 2013 [3 favorites]

All of those condiments are fine at room temperature.
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 10:59 AM on April 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

An aside: I was taught to keep raw meat on the bottom shelf so its juices won't drip on anything.
posted by aniola at 11:00 AM on April 22, 2013 [8 favorites]

Everything's fine. (And, as noted, keep meat on the bottom shelf in the future. Also, I'd suggest not refrigerating your bread; it makes it go stale faster.)
posted by scody at 11:03 AM on April 22, 2013 [5 favorites]

Who's eating this? Anybody particularly young or old? Anybody immuno-compromised?

I think your gut is telling you the right things. Top-shelf meat and dairy that's warm should definitely go. I might toss the mayo and mayo-based condiments. The very salty, sugarly, or sour condiments I'd be comfortable keeping.

Smell is not an indication of safety, only an indication of spoilage.
posted by Mercaptan at 11:04 AM on April 22, 2013

I would keep _everything_, but eat the most perishable stuff first (meat, etc..)

We keep our butter out of the fridge on a butter dish at room temperature.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 11:06 AM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'd eat everything. It all started from a cool temp so took a while to reach the warmer temps and wasn't warm for the whole 5 hours. The walnuts will be more than fine. If the mayo is some chemically stabilized miracle whip type product I wouldn't worry about it, if it's a home made or proper egg based one with I'd probably ditch that unless it was still cool to the touch when you checked, otherwise all your condiments will be fine, most condiments are made to last. Butter will be fine, I keep mine out of the fridge to make it easier to spread, bread lasts longer not in the fridge so it will probably actually last longer now.
posted by wwax at 11:12 AM on April 22, 2013

I'd keep everything except things that were in fact warm - like, really warm, not just "warm compared to refrigerator temperatures - with the exception of raw meat or maybe something like an egg custard.

In fact, I've done this very thing several times due to a weird fridge door design.

We have one person with a very delicate stomach (not immunocompromised) in our house, someone who gets food poisoning when the rest of us are fine, and he has never had problems. Cheese, deli, eggs in the shell - all are, IME and IMO, more robust than modern food anxieties would have us believe. People did survive before refrigeration - think of the gentle knight pricking on the plain, as it were - he was carrying his lumps of cheese and so on for a couple of days and didn't exactly have a cold pack attached to his saddle.
posted by Frowner at 11:18 AM on April 22, 2013

Butter is fine. We keep it out of the fridge in a butter dish.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 11:31 AM on April 22, 2013

Beef is fine, possibly improved. Yogurt's purpose is to survive this minor problem. Pork in America, I don't know. I'd probably not worry. It wasn't that long a time. Obviously, it wasn't ideal, but it's not "OMG DANGER!" either. Somehow, sub-optimal has been hyperbolized into disaster, in recent times. If you use mayo slowly, you might consider replacing it. If I left it on the table for 5 hours I'd toss it. But mayonnaise does weird things when it gets warm.

Cheese is probably close to perfect, and you should enjoy some nice warm cheese. Please don't think of 'dairy' as something where all members are the same. Milk and cheese are very different. One has been most carefully spoiled in a desirable way. The other is just cow-squeezins, with the fresh cow taste and germs scalded right out of it.
posted by Goofyy at 11:32 AM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Another vote for keeping it all. Except the tartar sauce, nobody should have to eat that.
posted by headnsouth at 11:32 AM on April 22, 2013

You mostly did right, certainly chuck most things warmed by the bulb. If you tossed cheese then you wasted it, as others have said with dairy go by sense of smell. Milk might go off more quickly but if it tastes OK it is, IMHO, OK. Fish I'd have tossed, with meat if I could have eaten or cooked it (for freezing) immediately I'd have done so otherwise tossing it would be prudent. Why keep condiments like soy sauce in a fridge? They last for months on the shelf.
posted by epo at 11:37 AM on April 22, 2013

Another vote for "I'd keep everything" (that wasn't obviously weird or stinky). Most things are kept in the fridge to prolong their shelf life, vs. keep them from spoiling immediately.

Seconded. I quite regularly forget to unpack my shopping bags into the fridge for a few hours when I get home from the store as I get distracted/am just too lazy, and it's always been fine.
posted by amerrydance at 11:43 AM on April 22, 2013

I know you did not have a power outage, and the door was open so it's not exactly the same, but here is a guide that may still be useful to you. It's official-like, from the U.S. gov, and therefore probably a bit on the conservative side, but it still says you can keep lots and lots of things, like hard cheeses, and most of your condiments.
posted by BlueJae at 11:52 AM on April 22, 2013

Agree with everyone above that most should be fine. Cheese can certainly be out of the fridge for hours and hours. and in Australia, eggs are sold on the shelf. I.e. they're not in the refrigerator at the grocery store.

(That said, as an American, I was shocked when I first saw that.)
posted by kestrel251 at 12:25 PM on April 22, 2013

Open a crack? My parents' fridge is open a crack about 98% of the time*. They have yet to succumb to food poisoning.

*The other 2% is when I'm visiting and slam it shut five times a day with increasingly sarcastic comments. But my motivations for this are (1) OCD and (2) energy use, not fear of food-borne death.
posted by pont at 12:26 PM on April 22, 2013

We keep giant Costco bags of nuts in the freezer since it will be a long time before they are used. BTW: taverns used to keep containers of hard cooked eggs on the bar for the customers to eat. Not my era, so I do not know if anyone died of warm-egg-disease.
posted by Cranberry at 12:56 PM on April 22, 2013

I wouldn't even consider throwing out anything in that fridge. Seriously, it wouldn't even cross my mind. I'd eat it all.
posted by windykites at 1:50 PM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

An cracked-open door is a poor seal compared to a closed door, but you don't need a perfect seal, it just means the fridge has to work harder. You incrementally compromised some of the insulation effect, meaning it probably ran all day instead of just off and on as usual. The environment was being cooled constantly, and it's not like a huge amount of warm air rushed in to heat everything. Don't sweat it, not in the least. You might've incrementally shortened the fridge's compressor lifespan, and that is the extent of the damage.
posted by Sunburnt at 3:06 PM on April 22, 2013

I'm wioth the eat it.
Light bulbs give minimal heat and if the fridge was open a crack and the light was on you have an issue.

My parents still leave meat on the bench to defroast as do I.

You are okay for red meat, surely. Chicken? My common sense says it'll be okay, but as make your own call. I think I'd use it all, especially if the core is cold.
posted by Mezentian at 8:47 AM on April 23, 2013

« Older Where can I get a delicious dinner and/or...   |   Best Bookstores in Pacific Northwest Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.