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Food Safety Issues/unopened Sam's Club chicken breast left out 5 hrs


silly me. I bought a sealed pack of Sam's Club chicken breasts at lunch and forgot to take them out of my vehicle back seat until 5:30 p.m. it is mid 70s temp ourside.  They are cool to the touch. Are they safe to cook & eat?

Hi Michael,

Currently, we do not have a way of telling if food that should be kept cold to remain safe is still safe to cook and consume when left out of refrigeration for 5+ hours. Food can look good, smell fine and when cooked, taste great, and can still make you ill. Poultry products are especially prone to having food borne illness bacteria present so giving them time within the Danger Zone -- 41 to 135 degrees -- is a recipe for potentional problems.

I can hear you asking, "but wouldn't refrigerating and cooking the chicken make it safe?"  The answer is...Maybe...but then again Maybe not! While cooking will destroy any live bacteria, some bacteria can produce a waste product while growing that is not destroyed by heat and can make you ill.  This is why simply cooking food that has been temperatured abused is not a guarantee to it's safety.  Thus the recommendation is to not consume foods that require time and temperature control to remain safe that have been in the Danger Zone for more than 2 hours.

Someday we will have a way to tell at home if food that has been temperature abused is still safe to eat.  Until then, we will just have to assume that the food is not safe and pitch it.



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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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