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Food Safety Issues/Pasteurized products at room temperature

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QUESTION: My husband and I have a disagreement about how long a pasteurized product can be left at room temperature. He's from England where they regularly keep eggs in shells at room temperature, and he says that because egg whites in cartons and other liquid egg products in cartons are pasteurized there is no harm leaving them sitting on the counter for extended periods of time, as long as the carton hasn't been opened. He says the same thing about cottage cheese and other pasteurized products.

He also notes that egg whites are used in royal icing and buttercream which are regularly kept at room temperature, so I should not worry that pasteurized products left at room temperature will spoil. We don't keep such things at room temperature by habit, but sometimes he comes home from the store at night and forgets to put something in the fridge. Is this really safe or are we playing bacterial roulette?

Thanks,
Sarah

ANSWER: Sarah,
  
    Potentially hazardous food which includes dairy products such as liquid egg products and cottage cheese can be left out of refrigeration for up to 4 hours. The FDA changed their advisory regarding shell eggs after a salmonella outbreak sickened 1000s of people some years ago. Shell eggs are now required to be kept under refrigeration but just like with other potentially hazardous foods they can be left out of refrigeration for up to 4 hours. Icings are not potentially hazardous food because they do not support the growth of microorganisms associated with food poisoning. Buttercream is sometimes considered potentially hazardous depending on the ingredients but I've never heard of a food poisoning associated with buttercream so it may be that the moisture content in buttercream is too low to support pathogen growth. Great question. Sorry about the slow reply. I was away on vacation.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: So just to clarify, even if liquid eggs are pasteurized and in a sealed carton they can't be left at room temperature for longer than four hours?

Answer
That is correct. You will see on the carton that it says, "keep refrigerated". If it says "keep refrigerated after opening" it means the liquid eggs were sterilized and don't require refrigeration until the package is opened. If the liquid eggs were pasteurized the carton should always be refrigerated.  

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Carl LaFrate

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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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