Still safe to eat?
January 4, 2007 3:19 PM   Subscribe

"Refrigerate after opening," says the tomato sauce. Unfortunately, it wasn't. This was roughly 48 hours ago. (It was closed.) Still safe to eat?
posted by werty to Food & Drink (39 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
If you have to ask, you probably already know the answer...

When in doubt, throw it out.
posted by sdrawkcab at 3:23 PM on January 4, 2007


Uhhhh... use it only if you like playing Russian roulette and have good health insurance. What did it cost compared to a case of food poisoning?
posted by toucano at 3:25 PM on January 4, 2007


If it's all natural, then probably not. But if it's loaded with preservatives, it may still be okay...I've eaten sauce that was left out that long and survived. Best not to risk it, but if you do eat it, definitely cook it first, preferably to boiling.
posted by Deathalicious at 3:33 PM on January 4, 2007


Me, I'd eat it if it doesn't smell bad and doesn't have any animal products in it. If it's just tomato and spices and whatnot.
IANASP
posted by iconomy at 3:37 PM on January 4, 2007


I'd eat it too, but I have a pretty case-hardened gut. If you're worried, just chuck it; why spend a day or two queasily wondering if it's going to come back to haunt you?
posted by languagehat at 3:40 PM on January 4, 2007


If it was covered, it's fine as long as the taste isn't bad, which it shouldn't be.

If it wasn't covered you have a very small gamble. But tomato sauce is slightly acidic which tilts things in your favor.

If it was me I'd give it a sniff test then use it.
posted by Devidicus at 3:42 PM on January 4, 2007


I'm with iconomy. I just give it the sniff test and look around for any green fuzz growing. If it smells fine, I taste a bit. If that tastes fine, Its lunchtime!
posted by vacapinta at 3:42 PM on January 4, 2007


Maybe my foodie sense is completely off, but what could possibly happen to tomato sauce in 48 hours? I'd put it in my face, I would.
posted by chrismear at 3:43 PM on January 4, 2007


I remember heavily tomato-based stuff like sauce as being remarkably resiliant to any nasties for a shockingly long time. Much longer than most foods.
posted by -harlequin- at 3:48 PM on January 4, 2007


Maybe my foodie sense is completely off, but what could possibly happen to tomato sauce in 48 hours?

Exactly. Plus, who eats cold tomato sauce out of the jar? You're going to cook it again, right? No worries, as long as it's tomato sauce, not meat sauce.
posted by Listener at 3:51 PM on January 4, 2007


Look, there are more bacteria and other slimey things in there than is considered normal or safe. If you have some kind of iron gut then go for it, if you are a mortal then spend the 2 bucks on a new can.
posted by damn dirty ape at 3:54 PM on January 4, 2007


If it's in a glass jar you're probably safe, but there's something about tomatoes in cans that really increases the risk of botulism once oxygen gets involved, so be careful.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 3:54 PM on January 4, 2007


Why take the risk for a half a buck worth of sauce? The downside will be a night of puking. Throw it out.
posted by Dave Faris at 4:03 PM on January 4, 2007


do you like botulism? (y/n)
posted by boo_radley at 4:16 PM on January 4, 2007


"but there's something about tomatoes in cans that really increases the risk of botulism once oxygen gets involved"

This is 100% made up and is actually the opposite of the truth. Tomato sauce (due to it's acid level) is highly unlikely to be a source of botulism poisoning. And oxygen inhibits botulism rather than encourages it.
posted by Devidicus at 4:20 PM on January 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


"do you like botulism?"

Seriously? Do you have a source for this? Even one? Anything?

Tomato sauce, due to it's acid level, moisture content, and dissolved sugars is basically guaranteed to never be a source of botulism poisoning.

How about only answering questions you have some knowledge of rather than promoting ignorance?
posted by Devidicus at 4:27 PM on January 4, 2007


Plus, who eats cold tomato sauce out of the jar? You're going to cook it again, right? No worries, as long as it's tomato sauce, not meat sauce.

This is your best answer.

I mean, seriously, ever been to a Mexican place with a salsa station? That's gotta be sitting there open the whole day. And you eat that raw.
posted by juv3nal at 4:57 PM on January 4, 2007


You can leave ketchup out for months at a time even though the bottle says to refrigerate it, so tomato sauce shouldn't be much different if it's made to the same industrial standards.
posted by cardboard at 5:16 PM on January 4, 2007


The worries are from cocci and coliforms, either of which could have grown to seriously pathogenic levels at room temperature in 48 hours. Even if killed by reheating/boiling, many of these bacteria produce heat-stable exotoxins that will still make you sick as a dog, even if the bacteria that secreted them were later sterilized.

So yeah, I wouldn't eat that stuff. It's not Neanderthal times; fresh food is widely available and people have learned the health consequences of letting food spoil.
posted by ikkyu2 at 5:22 PM on January 4, 2007


Oh, don't risk it. I freak out if stuff has been in the fridge for more than three days. My mom's best friend is Japanese, and they say that if things are a day old, they are dead and not worth eating.
posted by WaterSprite at 5:24 PM on January 4, 2007


"Oh, don't risk it."

Okay damn it. That's enough.

What is the risk? I'm asking. You tell me. Come on, let's have it. I double dog dare you.

It's like we've suddenly lost 5000 years of science. Are we hunter gatherers quizzing the shaman about illness?

Look........... Let me bring you folks up to 2007. Disease is NOT caused by demons. Food poisoning is NOT punishment from the gods. We know, with 100% certainty, what causes food-born illness. A small number of things can cause food to "spoil", and an even smaller subset of that can cause illness. We don't need to guess, because the science is rock-solid and simple. Unless the OP is living next to a feedlot and has fecal matter wafting through his kitchen, the sauce is fine.

If left open on the counter it probably has lots of mold and yeast spores. Just like things like beer, bread, cheese, etc. Any bad things in it after 48 hours will have had to fall out of the air. Literally. And since tomato sauce is acidic it is 100% safer to eat that (even uncooked) then a cookie sitting near it.

Anyone here eat sourdough bread? Before it was cooked it was fermented mush crawling with airborne organisms. Cheese? That's spoiled and curdled milk. Please embrace science and reject pointless hysteria.
posted by Devidicus at 5:47 PM on January 4, 2007 [8 favorites]


The worries are from cocci and coliforms, either of which could have grown to seriously pathogenic levels at room temperature in 48 hours.

How would coliforms get into tomato sauce? I mean, yes, in 48 hours someone could have walked by and dropped raw meat into your sauce but otherwise I don't understand....
posted by vacapinta at 5:58 PM on January 4, 2007


Tomato sauce is high in salt and acid and it is damn near impossible to get anything to grow in it. We store our sauce in one of those plastic squeeze things in the pantry for months on end. No refrigeration. Consider also the 3L bottles of sauce that you can (we do) buy for refilling the little squeeze bottles. They sit in the cupboard for months with no ill effect.

If it's pasta sauce or something, risks are maybe slightly higher if you ate it raw but cooking it will kill everything off. The only case where cooking won't make something biologically safe is where it contains inert toxins (eg heavy metals) that have nothing to do with how long it's been out, or if the bacteria growing in there produce notably toxic waste products. The latter case (bacterial toxins not eradicated by cooking even though the bacteria were killed by heat) occurs in animal products like meat, eggs and dairy but not so much in a highly acidic environment like tomato sauce.

Sauce-making techniques originated as a method to safely preserve vegetable matter and such sauces were frequently kept long-term before we had refrigeration.

I'm with Devidicus & harlequin. Eat the sauce.
posted by polyglot at 6:02 PM on January 4, 2007 [2 favorites]


me: but there's something about tomatoes in cans that really increases the risk of botulism once oxygen gets involved

Devidicus: This is 100% made up and is actually the opposite of the truth. Tomato sauce (due to it's acid level) is highly unlikely to be a source of botulism poisoning. And oxygen inhibits botulism rather than encourages it.


OK, I really did believe it because I'd heard it from an authoritative source, but following Devidicus' challenge I pulled out my handy Joy of Cooking All About Canning and it appears that the "you don't have much to worry about" folks are correct. Although sugar and acid levels from tomato to tomato are inconsistent, tomatoes generally have enough acid to be among the safer forms of produce that one might can.

From All About Canning, here are some tips for assessing foods in your open jar:
* Sniff for unnatural odors -- cheesy or sour are especially bad
* Check for signs of fermentation
* Look for mold -- even tiny flecks
* Examine the food with a fork for sliminess or other unnatural texture.

If it passes these tests, and if you heat it up before eating, you're probably fine -- though you don't have any surefire guarantee.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 7:09 PM on January 4, 2007


Oh hell yes eat the sauce. Companies just put crap like that on the labels to protect themselves from frivolous lawsuits.

*turns, takes bite out of putrefying hummus container*

Seriously. Eat the sauce. Be sure to update, though, with any symptoms of gastrointestinal distress!
posted by chinston at 7:13 PM on January 4, 2007


I'd eat it. But I also eat my meat (even my burgers) rare to medium-rare, take my eggs runny, and generally do everything one is not supposed to do with food.

So far, I am still alive, and still eating things that make Mrs. Tacos scold me.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 7:57 PM on January 4, 2007


Okay damn it. That's enough.

Yes. I thought only pregnant women were prone to this sort of thing.

If it passes the usual sensory tests, just boil it for a bit first.
posted by kmennie at 8:54 PM on January 4, 2007


Okay, some clarification.

- The sauce in question is more or less natural (it's from Newman's Own), has no meat or dairy in it, and was in a closed glass jar that was returned to the cabinet instead of the refrigerator.

- It was to be consumed after reheating.

- It looked and smelled like normal tomato sauce--and I've seen oops-too-long moldy sauce in my fridge in the past, so I know how to eyeball the difference.

- The whole issue arose because I had already reheated chicken cutlets and wasn't able to get to the store and still have time for dinner.

And yes: I ate it, seven hours ago. Tasted like marinara always does. I feel fine.
posted by werty at 9:29 PM on January 4, 2007


Well, everyone's mileage seems to vary so let me drop my virtual spoon in your sauce. Down here in the tropics, life is fast and easy. Almost any industrial food product left in the open for 48 hours will have already developed a near industrial revolution fungi civilization. Tomato sauce is no exception. Actually it is a pretty good environment for the bugs. But then again, "room temperature" is a very variable quantity - around here in the summer it gets above 35C fairly often.

Bacteria will be there too, no matter what the "acidic" crowd says. Tomato sauce acid level is not life threatening for some bacteria and the sugar in it is usually just right for many strains. Anyway, test it with your senses. The body usually raise all kinds of alarms if the food you're trying to eat is really bad for you. On the other hand, some organisms rejoice (evolutionarily speaking) in killing very large animals by fooling the said animals into eating the food they live in.

Summing it all up, what makes this sauce so precious for you to consider trading your health for a taste of it?
posted by nkyad at 9:43 PM on January 4, 2007


If it's as high in salt and acid as normal tomato sauce is, if it's not had dirty fingers, licked spoons or meat juice introduced to it, and the lid has been on it the whole time, then it's almost guaranteed to be fine.

Now if you'd left the chicken cutlets out...
posted by tomble at 11:15 PM on January 4, 2007


Well, it seems as though you've already solved your dilemma by eating it. I'm still gonna kick in my 2 cents just because I feel like it though: my personal experience with pasta sauce has been that if I leave it in a closed jar, it's fine for a day or two... open jar, however, will have a nice fuzzy layer on top of it relatively quickly (although still longer than 48 hours, usually). Maybe I just lived in mold/fungus friendly homes? However, if I left it sitting open on the counter for more than a day, it would take the quick train to trash town, without fail. A jar of sauce only costs a buck... it's not like when you have a half pizza left sitting on the counter... that shit is expensive! :)
posted by antifuse at 6:58 AM on January 5, 2007


Bin it, its not worth the risk mate
posted by Johnny Showbiz at 10:30 AM on January 5, 2007


Personal experience, I had a roomate who did this very thing with a BOX of tomato soup. She spent the weekend hotswapping the toilet.

I'm all for eating food that has been out for a while, but 24 hours is usually my upper limit.

Hope you don't get sick. My last case of food poisoning, I think I would have had to start feeling better just to die.
posted by Chickenjack at 11:20 AM on January 5, 2007


hotswapping the toilet

What does this mean? Yes, I get that she was puking, but I don't understand the metaphor.
posted by languagehat at 11:48 AM on January 5, 2007


Don't eat the sauce. In middle school we did an experiment where we left a bunch of things out to get mold and tomato sauce had the most robust mold on it. I do not recall what else we used.

Indian food, on the other hand, seems to be resiliant to things. There is something to that business about curries/eastern spiced dishes being good for keeping things fresh.
posted by frecklefaerie at 11:57 AM on January 5, 2007


hotswapping-- would that mean
"swapping back and forth between the two things
a sick human might repeatedly do to a toilet"?
posted by twistofrhyme at 1:43 PM on January 5, 2007


Summing it all up, what makes this sauce so precious for you to consider trading your health for a taste of it?

I like that people continued to post dire warnings after the OP had actually downed the stuff.

The point is that those of us who regularly eat stuff thats been out for a day or two (I include myself) dont see it as "trading your health" but rather as too much paranoia.

My mom regularly cooks vegetables for dinner then leaves the pot out overnight and most of the next day. After which we eat it again.

Before refrigeration became common in Mexico people such as my grandmother developed a good sense of how long stuff really could be left out: Anything cooked in the morning could be left out al day and eaten in the evening. Butter was never refrigerated. Breads of course were thrown out after a day - not because of mold but because who wants to eat hard bread when the baker makes fresh bread every morning. :)
posted by vacapinta at 1:58 PM on January 5, 2007


Cardboard: Your ketchup says refrigerate it? My Heinz ketchup does not, anywhere on the bottle, and I stopped doing so last year.
posted by GaelFC at 6:27 PM on January 5, 2007


GaelFC: in Canada, Heinz Ketchup certainly says to refrigerate it after opening. I never do. I haven't checked here in Ireland, but my girlfriend was horrified that I didn't keep it in the fridge. I just hate cold ketcup. Blech.
posted by antifuse at 2:51 AM on January 8, 2007


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