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Food Safety Issues/reheating food left out overnight

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Question
I forgot to place in the refrigerator a fully cooked chicken casserole made with stuffing and cream of chicken soup. I removed it from the oven around 8:00 p.m. and put it in the fridge at 6:00 a.m.. If I reheat this thoroughly, will it be safe to eat?

Answer
Your very close on this one. The rule says that potentially hazardous food must cool from 135F to 40F in 6 hours. If you cooked it to around 350F it would cool to 140F in about 90 min or so. That means it would be in the danger zone starting about 3:30-4:00am. There is a safety factor built into the rule- it actually takes 8 hours for microorganisms to multiply to a level to cause food poisoning- you still are 30min - 1 hour into the risk zone. The problem is that certain bacteria form toxins which cooking can't remove. These bacteria are usually associated with infected handlers who prepared the food or by unclean surfaces or cross contamination from raw chicken blood. Since I do this for a living I would have to say in good conscience to throw it out. I'm never in a position to confirm food handlers weren't ill, washed their hands properly, worked under sanitary conditions, didn't cross contaminate, etc. I wasn't there when the prep was done. You did the prep so you know these things. If you prepped properly the risk is very very low as long as you reheat to at least 165F. If I prepped the casserole - I know I did it safely - I would reheat it. Only you know how you prepped it. If you do chose to reheat it use a thermometer and reheat it to above 185F. Hope I didn't confuse you too much!

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Carl LaFrate

Expertise

I can answer food safety questions relative to food processing, retail food and food salvage after a catastrophic event such as a hurricane, flood, ammonia leak or fire. Questions related to HACCP, Regulatory, GFSI, SQF, BRC, liability issues, contamination events, pest infestation, pest control methodology,food safety defense, pathogen prevention such as L. Monocytogenes control in food processing and retail, any subject related to food safety including at home issues.

Experience

30 years experience as a food safety consultant working for the top food processors, food retailers and insurance companies that write liability policies related to food processing, storage and distribution. My firm employees 6 full time food safety auditors. I work for top law firms throughout the USA and am a staff consultant for Douglas Peterson and Associates, one of the top forensic engineering firms in the world. I also work with Risk Solutions International, a global leader in risk management.

Organizations
New York State Association for Food Protection, past president, executive board Central Atlantic States Association of Food and Drug Officials

Publications
Progressive Grocer Magazine Smart Money Magazine Private Label Buyer Magazine Supermarket News Natural Foods Merchandiser Magazine Food Service Director Magazine NYS Association for Food Protection Annual Report NYS Association for Food Protection Newsletter

Education/Credentials
Syracuse University, Microbiology/Biology NYS College of Environmental Sciences, Plant and Environmental Biology Cornell University, Food and Dairy Processing

Awards and Honors
Wm. Hickey Award (2006), NYS Association for Food Protection, for contributions in the field of food safety and sanitation New York State Integrated Pest Management Award (2007), NYS Assoc. for Food Protection, for contributions in the filed of integrated pest management.

Past/Present Clients
Pillsbury, Agri-Mark, Associated Grocers, Beatrice Foods, Cargill, Southern Cold Storage, Quaker, Ben & Jerry’s, Delverde Pasta (Italy), New York Bakery, Cabot Cheese, Hazelwood Farms, General Mills, Price Chopper Supermarkets, P&C Supermarkets, Great American Supermarkets, Tops Markets, Big M Supermarkets, Big Bear Supermarkets, Frito-Lay Distribution Centers, IBP, Excell, Eckerd Drugs, Rite Aid Drug Stores, Fay’s Drugs, Carl’s Drugs, AWI Wholesale Food Distribution, McLane Food Distributors, Golub Food Distribution, many supermarket chains (many include large scale specialty food service operations), Burger King, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Darden Foods (Red Lobster, Olive Garden), LSG Skychefs (Germany, US), Glen Mills Schools, Cornell University, Crider Poultry, Caesar’s Palace, The Oneida Indian Nation, Taylor Meat Packing, UCB Packaging Films

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