You may have heard that you shouldn’t let your food sit out for more than two hours. But how long can a sandwich sit out? And what about other foods you might eat at home?
The USDA recommends that all perishable foods, including sandwiches, be kept at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s important to note, however, that this is the temperature of the refrigerator itself. Refrigerators are designed to maintain a constant temperature within the fridge but not outside of it.
So if you leave your sandwich on the countertop while you put away groceries, it won’t necessarily spoil as quickly as if it were left in the fridge. But if you’re out of town and someone leaves your sandwich on top of the refrigerator, that’s when things get tricky.
The best way to prevent foodborne illness is by keeping food cold enough to prevent bacteria growth. While bacteria can survive at room temperature for several hours (especially in moist environments), it will grow more slowly when it’s cold or frozen — which means that food safety risks are lower when food is kept cold enough (40°F or less).
Last modified: October 31, 2022