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Food Safety Issues/Safe times for unrefrigerated raw meat


What is the recommended time for raw meat to be in the danger zone while transporting and preparing? I feel uneasy when I add up time getting home from the grocery store and then sometimes to trim fat, cut a lot of meat in small pieces, and add other ingredients takes another hour before it goes in the crock pot.
Also, do short times back in the refrigerator really count? Sometimes the meat goes in the refrigerator for a little while after the store and before I get it out again to prep it, but doesn't seem long enough to re-chill back to 40 degrees. This happened this evening when I got home from store (meat out 20 minutes) and refrigerated ground turkey for about 30 minutes before mixing it with things for a meat loaf (another 20-30 mins). Then I had to put the mixture back in the refrigerator and run to the store for fifteen minutes for ketchup for the top - came home, spread it on and finally got it in the oven, where it had to cook at least an hour to 165 degrees. Between the in-and-out refrigeration and the slow cooking method, I wonder if I should be concerned - ?

Hi Karen,

The consumer recommendation is that meat and other potentially hazardous foods that require refrigeration in order to remain safe to consume, should be refrigerated within 2 hours of purchase. If it is a hot day (above 90 degrees F) then you should get the foods into refrigeration within 1 hour.

Short stints in the refrigerator does help as harmful bacteria that cause foodborne illness grow faster at temperatures above 70 degrees F.  The more time you can keep them below 70 degrees -- and preferably at 41 degrees F or below -- the higher your chances for keeping your food safe for consumption.

So try to keep the amount of time that meat and other potentially hazardous foods (dairy, eggs, fish, poultry, etc) are at room temperature and you'll increase the chances that your food will remain safe.


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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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