by Tom Isler | December 01, 2005
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 served.)
    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.