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Food Safety Issues/Cooked meatball left on counter overnight


I baked beef meatball and then put in a single layer container to cool before putting in the fridge.  I forget them and went to bed.  They were in our kitchen on a cool counter for almost 8 hours.  We also turn our heat down at night.  It was below zero outside last night in Chicago and they were near our window??? I know you can not guarantee it would be safe but are there ways to make it safer...reheat in sauce in the oven, freeze, microwave?  Should I just toss and make a new batch?  
THANKS in advance.

Hi Taffy,

I live in Illinois so I know it was cold outside last night but your meatballs were inside, not outside.

When a food that is capable of supporting the growth of harmful bacteria is left in the Danger Zone (41 to 135 degrees F) for an extended period of time, the chances for bacterial growth goes up with each passing hour. Since you can't see, taste or smell these bacteria you just have to treat it as if it was harmful and not take a chance.

I know you want to know if reheating or freezing will make them safer but there is no way of knowing.  Unfortunatley, some bacteria produce a toxic waste product that is not deactivated by heat and freezing does not kill the toxin or bacteria.  Thus heating and freezing a potentially hazardous food that has been temperature mishandled does not make it safer. should toss the balls and make a new batch.



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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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