Health Beat 12-1-2005
The Spoils of Time
It lies between the pit of man’s fear and the
summit of his hunger. It is an area the Food and Drug
Administration likes to call the Danger Zone.
That zone, between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit, is hospitable
to pathogenic bacteria that causes food-borne illness, which means
people should be careful about eating from longstanding buffets or
reaching for leftovers on the kitchen table. The number of
pathogenic bacteria doubles roughly every 20 minutes in the Danger
Zone but doesn’t affect the appearance, smell or taste of food.
Perishable food that has been left out at room temperature for
more than two hours shouldn’t be consumed, according to the FDA.
That includes meat, dairy products, cooked pasta and rice, and
peeled or cut fruits and vegetables. (For those taking home doggie
bags from restaurants, that means two hours from when the food is
Rancid food, a separate issue, is caused by a different family
of bacteria in a wider temperature range. Surprise: It probably
won’t make you sick.