When packing a lunch to take to work or school, you might not think twice about including some deli meat. After all, it doesn’t need to get cooked, so it’s easy to add to a sandwich or wrap. But how long can lunch meat sit out at room temperature?
The USDA advises throwing away deli meats left out at room temperature for more than two hours.
Types of Lunch Meat
Lunch meat, also known as cold cuts, deli meats or simply meat, is a type of processed meat, including beef, pork, chicken, turkey, lamb or veal, usually sliced into thin pieces and served cold.
There are many different types of lunch meats available on the market today, including:
- Roast beef
- Chicken breast
- Tuna fish
What Happens if You Eat Spoiled Lunch Meat?
Like most people, you probably don’t give much thought to the lunch meat in your fridge. It’s simply sitting there, ready to be used in sandwiches or thrown into a lunch box. But did you know that lunch meat can pose a serious health risk if not handled properly?
Deli food is typically high in sodium and preservatives, which help keep it fresh for extended periods. However, these same preservatives can also make these foods susceptible to bacterial growth.
If deli meat gets left out of the fridge for more than two hours, bacteria can multiply and cause food poisoning.
Symptoms of food poisoning include:
- Abdominal cramps
Food poisoning can, in extreme circumstances, result in hospitalization or even death.
What To Do If Lunch Meat Is Left Out Too Long?
If you do find yourself in a situation where lunch gets left out for longer than the recommended time limit, there are some things you can do to reduce the risk of food poisoning.
- Check the color of the meat. If it looks brown or gray, it has probably started to go rancid and should get thrown away.
- Smell the meat. It is no longer safe if it smells sour or putrid.
- Feel the texture of the meat. If it feels slimy or sticky, this is another sign that it has gone spoiled and should get discarded.
How Long Can Lunch Meat Sit Out in the Car?
You’re driving along when you realize you forgot to pack your lunch in your cooler. Or maybe you forgot it and decided to swing by the convenience store on your way to work to pick up some prepackaged sandwiches.
But then you start wondering – how long can lunch meat sit in my car? Can you still eat it if it’s been sitting in the hot car all day? The time that lunch meat can stay safe in the vehicle depends on several factors, including the temperature and how good the wrapping is.
If the meat gets exposed to direct sunlight or if it gets improperly sealed in plastic or foil, spoiling will occur more quickly. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) states that lunch meat can be left out at room temperature for up to two hours before it becomes unsafe to eat.
However, this is only true if the temperature is below 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Lunch meat should only stay outside for an hour if the temperature is over 90 degrees Fahrenheit before it becomes dangerous to consume.
If you have left lunch meat in your hot car for more than one hour, it is best to throw it away. However, if you are storing lunch meat in the car for more than an hour, it is best to keep it properly stored in a cooler. It will help keep the food from spoiling too quickly.
How To Store Processed Prepackaged Deli Meat
You have just bought a package of pre-processed deli meat from the grocery store. How should you store it to keep it fresh and safe to eat?
First, take a look at the packaging. Most processed deli food products will have a “use by” date stamped on the package. The date stamped is what the manufacturer has determined is the last day the product will be at its best quality.
After this date, the flavor and texture of the meat may start to degrade. Ideally, you should use the food before this date. However, if you need to store it for a more extended period, there are some things you can do to extend its shelf life.
Ensure you refrigerate the meat when you leave the store and get home. Even if sealed, leaving it on the counter for more than an hour or two can allow bacteria to grow.
Once it’s in the fridge, you’ll want to monitor how long it’s stored. Try to consume it within three to five days of opening it. After that point, the quality will start to decline rapidly.
If you need to store it for longer than a few days, there are a couple of other options:
Vacuum Seal Processed Lunch Meat
You might wonder whether it’s safe to vacuum-seal packaged deli food products. The short answer is yes. You can vacuum seal these deli meats and extend the product’s shelf life.
Processed deli meats already come sealed when you purchase them, but vacuum-sealing them after opening them can further protect against bacteria and other contaminants. Vacuum sealing also prevents oxidation, which can cause spoilage.
If you’re planning on storing processed deli meats for an extended period, vacuum sealing is an excellent option to keep the product fresh and safe.
Freeze Lunch Meat
As you may know, freezing helps keep food fresh and free from bacteria. However, you may wonder whether it is safe to freeze processed, prepackaged deli meat. Yes, freezing is one of the best ways to extend the shelf life of deli meat.
When freezing deli foods, there are a few things to remember.
- Wrap the meat tightly in freezer-safe wraps or bags. It will help to prevent freezer burn.
- Consume frozen deli foods within two to three months. After this time, the quality of the product may start to decline.
- When thawing deli food products, make sure to do so in the refrigerator. Avoid thawing deli meat at room temperature, as this can cause bacteria to grow.
Overall, freezing is a great way to extend the shelf life of processed deli meat. Follow the tips above to ensure that the food stays fresh and safe.
How To Store Your Lunch Meat on Your Way To Work?
Properly storing your lunch on your way to work is essential to keep it fresh and safe. You can use a few options to store your lunch, including freezer packs, lunch boxes, and coolers.
Freezer packs are ideal for storing your food for long periods because they can keep your food cold even when not refrigerated, making them perfect for taking to work or on trips.
Lunch boxes are another option you can use to store your food. They are smaller than cooler bags and can be easier to transport. Coolers are the best option when traveling or transporting large amounts of food.
Whatever option you choose, it’s essential to ensure that processed deli meat is stored in a cool, dry place away from heat sources.
If you’re wondering how long can lunch meat sit out, the answer is generally two hours. After that point, the product will spoil and become unsafe to eat. However, there are a few ways to tell if your food has rotted before the two-hour mark.
- Check for any signs of mold or discoloration. If the meat looks slimy or green, it’s best to throw it out.
- Smell the meat. If it has a sour or ammonia-like smell, it’s no longer safe.
- Touch the meat. If it feels sticky or tacky, it’s time to toss it.
If you’re ever in doubt, it’s always better to be safe than sorry regarding food safety. And no matter how you store your deli meat, follow food safety guidelines when handling and preparing it for consumption.