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food poisoning

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mc1961 | 13:43 Wed 04th Feb 2004 | Food & Drink
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Why is it that you can eat cold chicken etc straight from the fridge but you are always told to cook things thoroughly or warm food thoroughly in the microwave? Surely you can eat cold cooked food and not get food poisoning? Also why do they say on the backs of ready prepared foods that once you cook it 'DO NOT REHEAT'? I always do and it seems fine!

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I'm a little surprised that you'd deliberately ignore safety instructions... ! The reason for the caution is because high volumes of all kinds of bacteria from the air and other nearby food and contaminants is always covering everything, even though we can't see it for a long time. Once food has been cooked and allowed to cool, these bacteria multiply much, much faster on the moist, nutrient-rich surfaces, and refrigeration is the only thing which slows the process down (but it DOESN'T stop it happening altogether). Re-heating food to anything less than "piping" or "scalding" hot cannot be guaranteed to kill these often-powerful bacteria, hence the possibility of food poisoning with any re-heated food - which in many circumstances can be VERY severe indeed, and certainly fatal at times, depending on the food and your general state of health beforehand. Cold chicken and other refrigerated foods have had the bacteria held at bay for the few days that they've been refrigerated, but even then this is not an open-ended period. No cooked-and-cooled food should be stored in a refrigerator for longer than about three days at the most - and rather less for things like meats and fish.
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Thanks. That makes sense. It's funny how you just take things for granted but now I shall make sure I don't leave things too long in the fridge.
Similarly, how come you can eat steak rare, but not any other type of meat - pork, chicken etc?
but surely if you reheat it well (over 70'C throughout) any dangerous bacteria would be killed, just as it is killed in the pasturisation process for milk?

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