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Food Safety Issues/vacuum sealed frozen chicken


My husband and I are having a debate.

Last night I put a vacuum sealed package of air chilled organic chicken that I had frozen in a bowl of cold water to defrost.  My intention was to put it in the fridge before I went to bed.  I forgot.  Is it safe?  Do I need throw it away?  The water is now cool, but not cold.  It is still sealed.

What do you think?

Hi Barbara,

Your question is a good one in that there is no definitive answer without laboratory analysis.

All we do know is that chicken, which is a potentially hazardous food (a food that requires time and temperature control for it to remain safe to consume) is capable of supporting the growth of harmful bacteria which grow rapidly at temperatures between 41 and 135 degrees.  These bacteria especially grow quickly at temperatures between 70 and 115 and room temperature falls within this range.  

Most bacteria that cause man harm are aerobic.  In other words, they require air in order to grow.  Thus vacuum sealing foods does increase it's shelf life and keeps down the growth of bacteria that require air.  However, not all harmful to man bacteria require air, so this is why vacuum sealed potentially hazardous foods still need to be maintained at either below 41 degrees F or above 135 degrees F. The other problem is that some bacteria produce a waste product that is toxic and is not destroyed by heat.  This means that cooking a food that has been temperature abused does not automatically make it safe to consume.

Also, the recommendation for defrosting foods now is under cold (70 degrees F or colder) running water, not in just a container of cold water.  This recommendation changed a few years ago so you may not be aware of this update.  Of course, the safest way to defrost is in the refrigerator, but this does take longer. your chicken still safe?  Who knows?  All we do know is that the conditions were made perfect for any bacteria that does not require air to grow.  What are the chances this happened?  Probably very, very slim -- but there is a chance and thus the recommendation is to not take a chance and pitch the chicken.



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Carol Schlitt


I can answer questions on home food safety, sanitation and home food preservation.


I am a former Extension educator, nutrition, wellness and food safety, having retired August 1, 2010. I am a food safety instructor for the Illinois Department of Public Health, a ServSafe Instructor/Proctor and have my own company, Safe & Savory Solutions, Inc -

National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (Past President and current Historian), St. Louis Culinary Society.

BS - University of Illinois MS - Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville

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