It can! Cooked Meat left out overnight; leaving food out overnight may create a stomach ache
Early morning dilemma
Oh the pain of it all; no income in sight and a delicious pot of chicken enchiladas left on the counter all night. What to do?
My first response this morning was to shove the entire pot into the oven and burn away the bacteria. "Are you heating enchiladas for lunch?" My husband the Chef was proud of his culinary achievement.
"It sat on the counter all night; I am afraid we may need to toss it!" The look on his face would curdle milk. "I's going to go online and see whether cooking it will kill the bacteria."
"It would be ridiculous to toss it!" The dark edges of my husband's temper were making an appearance.
"It would be more ridiculous to eat it and get sick!" It was difficult, because I agreed with him in my heart. But my head flashed, "Danger!"
We are down to a catastrophic insurance plan. Food poisoning, though disgusting in my experience, is not catastrophic. It inflicts violent vomiting and slow debilitation.
Sadly, there are no grey areas online when it comes to leaving meat on the counter. The USDA Food Safety and Inspection site is very clear:
"Bacteria exist everywhere in nature. They are in the soil, air, water, and the foods we eat. When they have nutrients (food), moisture, and favorable temperatures, they grow rapidly, increasing in numbers to the point where some types of bacteria can cause illness. Bacteria grow most rapidly in the range of temperatures between 40 and 140 °F, some doubling in number in as little as 20 minutes. Some types will produce toxins that are not destroyed by cooking.
"Pathogenic bacteria do not generally affect the taste, smell, or appearance of a food. In other words, one cannot tell that a food has been mishandled or is dangerous to eat. For example, food that has been left too long on the counter may be dangerous to eat, but could smell and look fine. If a food has been left in the "Danger Zone" – between 40 and 140 °F – for more than 2 hours, discard it, even though it may look and smell good. Never taste a food to see if it is spoiled."
Softening the blow
There are several options I can offer my husband to soften the blow:
1. The type of illness produced when food is left out too long at room temperature appears to be Staph aureus food poisoning. The symptoms for this include severe vomiting; diarrhea, severe abdominal cramps, a mild fever and possibly abdominal distention.
"If you don't mind vomiting all night, by all means dig in to the chicken enchilada! Heck, the site says you only have to contact a doctor IF your diarrhea contains blood or mucus; you have diarrhea and ALSO vomit, have a fever or abdominal cramping; or your diarrhea lasts longer than 2-3 days!"
2. Most likely it isn't Salmonella, though chicken is involved and sitting out, it is definitely improperly prepared.
"Heck, if you do get salmonella," I might reassure him, "The acute illness only lasts for 1 - 2 weeks. Sure maybe for some, bacteria is shed in the feces for months. But most people with salmonella shed the bacteria and do NOT wind up being in a carrier state for 1 year or more after the infection..."
The mortality rate for Salmonella is about .071%. This means only about 1000 people die in the US annually. That's two per day. Most likely not my husband, right?
Only two people a day die of salmonella, so don't worry about a little diarrhea.
3. In these tough economic times, I can offer NOT to eat at all...
"What if I fast for a day? Will this cover the opportunity cost of tossed enchiladas?"
In the middle of composing this hub, my sister in law called with a quick action item. When I returned, my husband had eaten the enchilada casserole for lunch. It had baked for four hours at 250 degrees. I tossed what was left down the disposal, not willing to risk him eating more- yes, I DID warn him about the diarrhea, but he didn't seem to notice.
Stay tuned. Hopefully he isn't stranded in some field somewhere, his RC plane lodged in a tree as he doubles over in pain...
© 2010 Barbara