Should I eat this?
February 25, 2008 6:16 AM   Subscribe

Should I eat this black bean soup?

Yesterday, I made a delicious pot of black bean soup, with the intention of eating it for lunch this week. But of course, after I divided the pot into individual containers, I didn't remember to actually put them into the refrigerator. The key ingredients are canned black beans and canned chicken broth and they sat out for about 18 hours from the time I made the soup yesterday to when I discovered them this morning and stuck them in the fridge. Will I die get food poisoning if I eat it? Am I less likely to die get food poisoning if I make sure it gets really, really hot when I heat it up for lunch?
posted by donajo to Food & Drink (33 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Dump it out and go get something good.
posted by Caper's Ghost at 6:20 AM on February 25, 2008

With the chicken stock in it, you'd be playing Russion roulette if you ate it.
posted by bricoleur at 6:21 AM on February 25, 2008

And no, heating it up again won't help. Food poisoning toxins are just that--toxins--and they are not destroyed by heating.
posted by bricoleur at 6:22 AM on February 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

You'll be fine, but 95% of people here will tell you to not eat it.
posted by whoda at 6:35 AM on February 25, 2008 [19 favorites]

The standing food safety rule in my home: When in doubt, toss it out.
If you have any question as to the safety of food, don't bother asking Metafilter, calling mom, or googling it. I can't think of any food that is worth going to the hospital.
posted by leapfrog at 6:36 AM on February 25, 2008

I'd eat it without a second thought. If the chicken broth is canned its probably pasturized so its not like you would get samonella from it or anything.
posted by stormygrey at 6:37 AM on February 25, 2008

Food poisoning toxins are just that--toxins--and they are not destroyed by heating


I thought that the concern with chicken was bacteria, which are destroyed by heating - not 'toxins.'

I'm on the fence on this one. I bet you could heat and eat and survive, but personally, I wouldn't want to risk it.
posted by Miko at 6:45 AM on February 25, 2008

Meh, I routinely eat stuff under those exact same circumstances, and have rarely been ill from food. Mind you, I live in the freezing-cold UK, and even I might balk at something that's sat out for that long on a warm-ish day.
posted by bifter at 6:48 AM on February 25, 2008

If you are a normal, healthy adult you'll be fine. You might notice that it turns a day or two more quickly than normal so I would enjoy it soon.
posted by mrmojoflying at 6:55 AM on February 25, 2008

There are two kinds of bacterial-based food poisoning. There is direct poisoning, where the bacteria infect you. Proper food safety and cooking will stop this.

There is indirect poisoning, where the bacteria create toxins that will kill you. Botulism, for example. You can kill the bacteria all you want, but if they were in the food cooking up homemade Botox, the toxin stays despite cooking.

You're probably ok, but I wouldn't eat it. The only thing that I'd eat after having been left out all night would be pizza, because it's indestructible.
posted by gjc at 7:00 AM on February 25, 2008

Dump it. Sorry to say. The chicken is the deal breaker. It is not worth the pain.
posted by zerobyproxy at 7:19 AM on February 25, 2008

I often eat dishes containing meat which have been left on the counter overnight. Never been sick from it yet.
posted by frobozz at 7:33 AM on February 25, 2008

I'd totally eat it. I've eaten stuff, that's sat out for longer and seen worse circumstances, and been fine. Caveat to this being that my general theory is "that which does not kill you, makes you stronger".

Really, though--if it had been fresh stuff, I might be on the fence, but this was all canned beforehand. If it was okay in the can, you took it out of the can, heated it, presumably to a boil, and then let it sit out in roughly the same condition it was in when it sat for months on a shelf in a can ... where's the worry?
posted by the luke parker fiasco at 7:34 AM on February 25, 2008

The only thing that I'd eat after having been left out all night would be pizza, because it's indestructible.

My local branch of Domino's proves you wrong on a routine basis. :)
posted by bifter at 7:35 AM on February 25, 2008

Another vote for "eat it."
posted by solipsophistocracy at 7:37 AM on February 25, 2008

I would eat it. But I'm an empathetic bastard, and am loathe to waste food that starving children in Africa would kill to have.

My leftover rules:
#1) If it doesn't smell bad, eat it.
#2) If it tastes off, toss the rest.
posted by Grither at 7:39 AM on February 25, 2008

I'd eat it, using the same reasoning as the luke parker fiasco.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:46 AM on February 25, 2008

I'd eat it.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:51 AM on February 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'd eat it (and I'm a wuss about stuff like this). The canned broth decides the matter for me. I'd probably eat it if the broth had been that boxed stuff, too, but if the broth was stock, made from the bones of a chicken, I'd probably throw it away after it sat out overnight.
posted by cgc373 at 8:13 AM on February 25, 2008

You should dump it. If you'd left it sitting in the pot it was cooked in on the stove you could probably eat it. But if the individual containers were sitting around in your cupboard or dish drainer, they were probably anything but sterile, and you just provided whatever was waiting in those containers an ideal culture medium and growing conditions-- and beans are the number two food (after meat) associated with botulism.
posted by jamjam at 9:06 AM on February 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

In response to earlier statement on toxins: Botulinum toxin is inactivated by heat.
posted by mkb at 9:11 AM on February 25, 2008

mkb, that's a misleading way to interpret that page, especially when the rest of the article isn't available. I'd interpret it as "the length of heat required at a certain temperature to inactivate botulinum". So if you just microwave your soup, even thought it may be hot, it may not have been hot long enough.
posted by artifarce at 9:19 AM on February 25, 2008

With that said, this source gives the following for inactivating botulinum: "The toxin is destroyed by normal cooking processes (heating at >85C for five minutes or boiling for a few minutes)"
posted by artifarce at 9:31 AM on February 25, 2008

If Bear Grylls can eat dead zebra meat, I think you'd be fine with day old black bean soup.

And c'mon... botulism? In 10 years, there were only 263 people affected by botulism and most were due to improper packing, not storage. If you were to get botulism, it would be a million times more likely due to bad canned chicken soup than from leaving it out.
posted by junesix at 10:27 AM on February 25, 2008

I routinely eat things(meat, soup) that have been sitting on the counter overnight and never get sick. You'll be fine.
posted by pravit at 10:43 AM on February 25, 2008

The zebra that Bear Grylls ate was a fresh kill. He should be more worried about tapeworms. If you have a tough stomach then, by all means, eat the soup.
posted by spakto at 10:53 AM on February 25, 2008

Botulism spores, to produce toxin, must have two conditions to form toxin:

1) a low-acid environment
2) air tight environment

The chicken soup has a low-acid environment. If it was tightly sealed in a tub with lid after being opened, especially if having been heated, then put in the tub hot, then sealed before cool so that the plastic lid made a vacuum, it theoretically could yield botulism toxin.

One example of a practice some American restaurants had to change because it created botulism toxin in a case: restaurants used to saute all their onions in the morning, then put them in a spare plastic tub (like an empty cottage-cheese tub), put the lid on, and let it sit at the back of the stove. Air-tight, low-acid environment -- check and check.

That being said, there are other things that meat broths are more likely to harbor -- a good airborne staphlyococcus aureus could lodge in there and give staph poisoning, which is a toxin poisoning.
posted by lleachie at 10:56 AM on February 25, 2008

I should also mention that I'm currently living amongst people who regularly leave cooked food sitting out for days, sometimes, eating until it's gone, and they all seem hale and healthy. Mashed potatoes, boiled raw milk, giant pots of soup (animal and vegetable), fried meat ... and all of this was cooked fresh, not out of a can. I suppose I shouldn't say 100% that you'd be fine, but I'd bet a lot of money on it. Or, eat some of the soup for you. (Mmm, soup.)

Whichever way you go, let us know. I'd imagine AskMe has compiled quite a list of "to eat or not to eat" questions, we can put bean soup on the list too.
posted by the luke parker fiasco at 10:59 AM on February 25, 2008

If I had left this out overnight, and it looked and smelled ok, I would dump it all back into a pot together and heat it to low boil for a few minutes. Then I'd put it in clean containers and back into the fridge, immediately. I'd made sure I ate it all in 2-3 days, assuming the first meal of it didn't make me sick. Which, for the record, only happens once in a blue moon when I eat out. But I tend to cook with a lot of acidic and spicy ingredients, and most often vegetables and vegetable stocks.

This is all based on the assumption that you had heated it to boiling originally, that the containers were covered when they sat out, and that they were clean to start with. That cuts down on the amount of stuff that could get in there to grow.

18 hours, though. That's longer than I've left anything out that was still good later. I think my worst was about 8 hours. And chicken stock? Hm. It might be best to bail here.
posted by Tehanu at 1:37 PM on February 25, 2008

a) Botulism isn't the only bacteria that creates toxins.
b) That link is from 1967.
c) "That which doesn't kill me makes me stronger" really isn't true in the food safety arena. Some of these baddies can cause long-term damage. It's rare, but possible.
posted by gjc at 3:14 PM on February 25, 2008

Eat it. My family regularly cooks large pots of chicken/rib soup and it's left to sit on the stove in room temperature for a few days, until we finish it off. We reheat it (to a boil, of course) when we want some soup for subsequent meals. None of us have ever gotten sick of it, and my mom has an incredibly sensitive stomach. Your soup isn't even fresh, it's canned; you'll be fine.
posted by Phire at 10:56 PM on February 25, 2008

Why does every "should I eat it" thread turn into a discussion about Botulism? Haven't we had this chat enough?

Re. the question, I'd probably eat it, unless it was a very warm day, or it smells funky... :)
posted by ranglin at 3:55 AM on February 26, 2008

Response by poster: I ate it. No ill effects yet.
posted by donajo at 7:17 AM on February 26, 2008

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